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For David Chen, the shoplifters keep on coming

On the evening before learning if he will face consequences for tying up a shoplifter, a grocer in Toronto's Chinatown apprehended a woman who, he claims, stole roughly $100 worth of various products.

Sitting in a makeshift office in the basement of the Lucky Moose Food Mart, David Chen said a woman visited his store on Wednesday evening and made off with three bottles of hair conditioner, some cooking oil and a box of eggs.

He said the alleged theft went unnoticed until staff realized the items were missing and viewed the store's security video.

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The shopkeeper was himself reviewing the tape shortly before 6 p.m. Thursday when he saw the woman return. He watched as she took two bottles of a skin-care product and stuffed them in a bag, he said.

His mother confronted the woman on the steps of the Dundas Street West grocery while Mr. Chen called 911. Then, he noticed a police cruiser passing by and flagged it down. The woman was charged with theft and released at the scene, Mr. Chen said. Police could not immediately confirm if anyone had been charged.

Shortly after, as he scrolled through cellphone photos of people taking fruit off sidewalk displays in front of his store, Mr. Chen shook his head.

"I hate doing this kind of business," he said. "If I could, I'd choose another kind of business."

The shopkeeper is due in court on Friday for a verdict on charges of assault and forcible confinement arising from a 2009 incident in which he and two employees tied up a shoplifter and threw him in the back of a van. The case has pitted Mr. Chen's supporters, who argue he was simply protecting his property, against those who say he should face consequences to deter vigilantes.

"All of these guys are fighting a daily battle with these shoplifters," said Peter Lindsay, Mr. Chen's lawyer. "He did the right thing and called police."

Asked how often he encountered thieves at his store, Mr. Chen said it varies day to day.

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"Today, three times. Tomorrow, I go to court, so who knows," he joked.

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