EDMONTON -- The three liquor stores that installed ID-scanning technology after Edmonton saw a large increase in robberies last year have seen almost no thefts so far this year, Alcanna Inc. said.

The Edmonton Police Service responded to more than 9,500 liquor store robberies in 2019 — an increase of more than 6,000 compared to 2018.

As a result, Alcanna — which owns Liquor Depot, Wine and Beyond and Ace Liquor — installed the technology used at nightclubs, Patronscan, to identity who was entering three of its stores.

"We noticed in the City of Edmonton our stores and everybody else's stores a very drastic increase in thefts and robberies at liquor stores in the last 18 months," said Alcanna CEO James Burns. "So we were trying to investigate ways to try to mitigate and keep our staff and employees, number one, and to reduce the financial loss."

Burns, who called the number of thefts staggering, said Alcanna wanted to put Patronscans in nine of Alcanna liquor stores as part of a pilot project with EPS, but Alberta's privacy commissioner raised a red flag about the technology and began an investigation into whether it is in compliance with privacy laws.

Alcanna Inc. told CTV News Edmonton it decided to wait for the privacy commissioner's findings before it fully rolled out the pilot project.

"But in the three stores that it's been in for six months now, crime has been almost non-existent," Burns said.

"Right now we don’t really know other than anecdotally. The three stores in question have seen almost no liquor thefts but if all we've done is move the criminals to other stores."

Losses from these thefts are in the millions, Burns said, but added the decision to launch the pilot project was in the name of safety.

"These incidents are becoming more and more violent…somebody is going to get hurt."