toronto's "vigilante grocer" on trial

Here's a recent editorial in the Toronto Sun on Chinatown's "vigilante grocer" David Chen, who's on trial facing criminal charges of forcible confinement and assault. His crime? In May 2009, he and two employees caught and held a shoplifter at his Lucky Moose Food Mart... and were subsequently arrested themselves: Why is David Chen on trial?

The Crown argues their citizen's arrest was illegal because the three men did not catch the thief in the commission of the offence and because they intended to beat him up, rather than alert police, as they claim.

Public perceptions are important because if the Crown is trying to send out a message to discourage vigilantism, this seems a poor case for it.

According to testimony to date, Chen had previously caught shoplifters in the act in his store and notified police, who would show up hours later and let them off with a warning.

He'd also installed $30,000 worth of security cameras, in a bid to curtail shoplifting.

But that didn't stop Anthony Bennett, 52, the career criminal Chen and his employees apprehended.

Bennett has 43 criminal convictions over 30 years including dozens for theft, drug trafficking and uttering threats against another shopkeeper.

He testified he not only stole $60 worth of plants from Chen's store that day - to which he previously pled guilty, receiving a modest, 30-day sentence in return for his testimony - but was coming back to steal more when the incident that led to the charges occurred.
The authorities always discourage vigilantism, and it probably wasn't the best idea for Chen and his associates to chase down Bennett, tie him up, and throw him in the back of a van. But can you really blame Chen for taking matters into his own hands?

The guy works nearly 20 hours a day, making $35,000 a year and repeatedly dealing with shoplifters that the cops refuse to do a damn thing about. Despite installing $30,000 worth of security cameras, the criminals kept getting away.

So when he confronts this asshole career criminal for stealing flowers and the guy responds with "Go fuck yourself, Chinese" and takes off, you'll have to excuse Mr. Chen for deciding that enough was enough. More on the trial here: Police often let shoplifters get away, grocer testifies.

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