The ACCESS Taskforce and its results in Opelika, AL

Learn what results Opelika saw because they participated in the ACCESS Taskforce.

Last Updated:
December 8, 2023
| ~
min Read
Nikki Siegel
Marketing Writer

From ghost town-like shopping centers in the midst of the pandemic to extreme supply train disruption to double-digit inflation, it’s no secret that the last few years have been difficult in the retail industry.

Unfortunately, the trouble is far from over as one problem has moved to center stage: retail theft.

Forbes reports that retail theft losses have more than doubled since 2019’s $50.6 billion. In 2022, retailers reported a staggering $112.1 billion in losses. But it’s not just the theft that’s causing financial strain: nearly 90% of retailers reported that shoplifters are more aggressive and violent now than they were just a year ago, causing very valid concerns in shoppers and employees about the safety of simply going to a store.

Deterrence theory, which says that offenders are less likely to commit crimes if they know they will experience negative consequences, suggests that it is possible to reduce crimes like shoplifting by either increasing the perceived risk of the crime or reducing the perceived benefits of the crime.

Mobile security surveillance systems are a straightforward way to increase the perceived risk of the crime, but do these business surveillance camera systems actually make a difference when it comes to deterring crime and increasing feelings of safety?

LiveView Technologies (LVT) partnered with the Loss Prevention Research Council (LPRC) and two United States cities to answer that very question.

The ACCESS Taskforce

LVT, LPRC, and municipal governments, police departments, and retail companies from Opelika, AL, and Paducah, KY, came together to form the ACCESS Taskforce. (The ACCESS acronym stands for Alliance of Companies and Communities to Enhance Safety and Security.)

This taskforce had one main goal: to measure the influence LVT mobile security units have on criminal behavior and community members’ perceptions of safety.

In order to research the influence of the LVT Units, they found two cities—Opelika and Paducah—that hadn’t previously been exposed to mobile security unit technology. The taskforce analyzed the existing crime rates and locations, then placed 49 LVT Units in these two cities for a period of six months to observe the impact on these communities and retail sites.

Why LVT Units?

Thanks to their tall mounts, law enforcement colors, flashing lights, and overall visibility, LVT Units are a perfect match for LPRC’s See-Get-Fear model.

See-Get-Fear refers to the three general requirements for a modification of an environment to increase the perceived risk of committing a crime (making that modification an effective deterrent).

  1. Would-be offenders must “see” the deterrent (in this case, the large LVT Unit in the parking lot).
  2. They must “get” what it is. (i.e., A security camera needs to actually look like a security camera.) In the case of LVT Units, law enforcement coloring can help clue the individuals in to the unit’s purpose.
  3. They must “fear” its use, understanding that the clearly visible video surveillance system means that if they go through with this crime, they will be caught and prosecuted.

The obvious placement of the LVT Units in parking lots has the added bonus of being the first and last area would-be offenders see upon entering and exiting a business, serving as a very clear reminder that any attempts at theft will cost them more than it’s worth.

ACCESS in Opelika

The two cities chosen for the ACCESS study had specific factors that drew the Taskforce to them:

  • They are both mid-sized cities.
  • Neither had been exposed to mobile security units before.
  • Both cities had higher than average rates of crime. (Both cities had about double the average property crime rates than the average for cities in the U.S.; they also both exceeded average rates for violent crime and property crime when compared to similarly sized cities.)

Opelika is situated on the eastern side of Alabama. It has a population of about 30,000 people and has experienced steady population growth over the last few years.

At the beginning of November 2022, the ACCESS Taskforce placed 17 LVT Units around the city, both at specific participating retailers and around the Tiger Town Outdoor Shopping center.

In order to compare the numbers from the six-month period in which the units were deployed with previous crime trends, the Taskforce examined and sorted all the data from November 2021 to November 2022. LPRC overlayed this data with maps of the city to place LVT Units in the areas with the highest numbers of incidents, maximizing the potential effect of each unit.

Opelika’s Taskforce Results

At the end of the six-month LVT Unit deployment period, LPRC analyzed the pre-placement and post-placement statistics and also completed a survey of community members, retail employees, and law enforcement personnel.

The survey (which pulled from both cities) showed an overwhelmingly positive response to the placement of the LVT Units, with increased feelings of safety and security across the board. This is a major win for retailers and customers alike, but the actual crime rate comparisons are just as clear:

Shoplifting incidents decreased by 40%.

This number alone was the most statistically significant result from Opelika’s analysis. Shoplifting incidents corresponded to a single code (“theft/shoplifting”) in the reporting database, making it highly specific.

This 40% decline in shoplifting incidents is a direct contrast to the previous year in Opelika, which had actually seen a 20% increase in shoplifting incidents.

Disorderly conduct declined by 31%.

Disorderly conduct in this case is comprised of several reporting codes: disorderly conduct, intoxicated pedestrian, public lewdness, sexual misconduct, and indecent exposure.

Opelika’s overall crime rate decreased by 10%.

Because the placement of LVT Units in retail parking lots is such a highly visible change, it has the potential to influence behaviors beyond just the parking lots and businesses themselves. With that in mind, LPRC examined the city’s crime rates overall, categorized into crimes by type.

Crimes against persons decreased by 7.1%. This includes typically violent offenses such as assault and rape. Interestingly, this number actually increased in some areas directly around the LVT Units, but that could very well be attributed to the increased reporting in cases that would otherwise be “he said, she said” cases. Crimes against persons tend to be emotional crimes instead of intellectual ones, meaning the reasoning element that the See-Get-Fear model is based off of would be much less effective in those instances.

Crimes against property decreased by 14.9%. This category of crime includes shoplifting, fraud, and trespassing.

Crimes against society decreased by 8.2%. Crimes against society include drug offenses, disorderly conduct, and weapon law violation.

To go back to the question posed at the beginning of this article, do mobile surveillance systems actually make a difference? The numbers and survey results are clear: YES.

Interested in trying an LVT Unit in your retail space? Contact an LVT representative for more information today.

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