No-backpack policy unfair, cyclist says

Langley resident says women with purses and parents with diaper bags are not being asked to surrender their bags

Cyclist Ryan Patterson says his backpack is no bigger than his wife’s purse, but most Langley merchants won’t let him carry it in their stores.

Ryan Patterson understands why many Langley stores have a no-backpacks policy to prevent shoplifting, but the way they enforce it doesn’t seem fair to the avid cyclist, who usually carries his ID, phone and keys in a small pack.

Patterson told The Times he is often asked to leave his pack behind the front counter of a store while shoppers with larger diaper bags and women with bigger handbags are not.

“It makes no sense,” Patterson said.

He said he has gone into a store with his wife, whose purse is about the same size as his backpack, and he has been asked to surrender his pack while she is allowed to keep her handbag.

“When I ask why, they say, well, it’s a woman’s handbag,” Patterson said.

He said it is alarming to see his backpack with his ID and other possessions left on a shelf behind a counter that is not staffed at all times.

“You’re constantly thinking [in that situation], is my bag safe?” Paterson said.

Patterson said he has no issue with the need to prevent shoplifting, but if he is going to turn over his pack, it should at least be stored in a secure place such as a locked room or cupboard.

“Like a coat check,” Patterson suggested.

If a store can’t provide some measure of safe storage, Patterson feels he should be allowed to keep his backpack, with the understanding it can be inspected the way bags are examined at music concerts.

“I have no issue if they want to look through my bag before I leave,” Patterson said.

Patterson said he got in the habit of using a pack because most bicycle clothes don’t come with pockets and he also needs the extra room to carry supplies for his two young daughters.

“I can’t put applesauce and spoons in my pockets,” Patterson said.

Patterson intends to continue his one-man campaign for safer backpack storage, one merchant at a time.

So far, he said, only one local store has been willing to put his pack in a locked room, and only after he insisted.

He said other backpack wearers should push, politely, for safer storage, too.

Police say backpacks are often used by shoplifters to steal goods.

One of several cases reported by Langley RCMP involved a man who slipped three 1.75 litre bottles of vodka worth $175 into his backpack during a visit to a Willoughby liquor store in the 6400 block of 201 Street last year.

In March of this year, two men used backpacks to steal meat from the Safeway in the 20800 block of Fraser Highway.

When they got into a tussle with a store loss prevention officer, the pair assaulted the officer with pepper spray to escape.

A study by the Retail Council of Canada (RCC) found that 87 per cent of Canadian retailers were the victims of some form of retail crime with an average loss of $1,005 a month.

Under Canadian law, a search of a customer bag or backpack could be considered unreasonable by a judge unless there was probable cause to believe a criminal offence had been committed.

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