You’ve probably seen the videos: Groups of people in ski masks smashing glass cases, using vehicles to ram into store fronts, and grabbing armloads of product.
While these smash-and-grab examples have certainly caught the world’s attention in the last year, organized retail crime (ORC) has been around for much longer than that and often involves much subtler methods (though the majority of retailers say ORC is becoming more violent).
Organized retail crime consists of groups of professional criminals targeting retail stores via shoplifting, cargo theft, fraud, and other criminal activities. Unfortunately, its impact goes beyond just financial losses for businesses; these crime sprees contribute to feelings of unsafe work environments, negative shopping experiences for customers, decreased economic activity, and even job loss when theft becomes too rampant.
To combat this growing threat, retailers need a combination of effective security measures, technology, and collaboration. To help you get started with securing your own business, we’ve compiled a comprehensive guide of organized retail crime prevention techniques.
STORE LAYOUT AND ORGANIZATION
A well-organized store has several advantages: it creates a nicer shopping environment, it allows customers to easily find product, it’s easy to spot any missing inventory, and it shows criminals you care enough to likely also have a security system in place. It even helps employees have an easier time with inventory checks (which will also help you see if there are any patterns with inventory thefts). With all positives for honest customers, and all negatives for bad actors, store organization is a win-win.
Clean Sight Lines
Take your store organization one step further by carefully arranging your store aisles and product displays to create clean lines of sight. This allows employees and cameras to more effectively monitor the store and makes it harder for thieves to find blind spots in which to shoplift.
Strategic Product Placement
If you struggle with theft of a specific product type (as can be revealed through regular inventory checks), be strategic about where you place that particular product. It may be that you need to have more employee supervision around that product, or you may need to place certain items in locked cases so they are less easily accessible.
Something as simple as “Smile, you’re on camera” posted on your store front is unobtrusive for regular customers yet serves as a deterrent warning for any wrongdoers. You can also post messages informing them that shoplifting will not be taken lightly.
Obvious Security Measures
Hiding your security measures (such as cameras) actually prevents them from doing a key part of their job: deterrence. In order to work most effectively, security measures should be obvious and on full display, so any ORC groups looking to target your store will see your security, get that it means they have a much higher chance of getting caught, and fear the repercussions (such as law enforcement involvement and criminal prosecution).
This see-get-fear model works particularly well when it comes to naturally obvious security structures such as LVT’s mobile security units, which are large and can be outfitted in law enforcement colors to make sure all aspects of see-get-fear are perfectly clear.
Attentive Customer Service
Employees in place to assist with any customer needs are convenient for customers (as they don’t have to go searching if they have a question) and very inconvenient for thieves (as they have fewer places to steal unobserved).
While it’s not advisable to ask a regular employee to stand between thieves and the exit, it’s a very good idea to make sure every employee knows exactly how to respond in the case of criminal activity. Ensure each staff member has a thorough knowledge of store policy when it comes to confronting (or not confronting) thieves, incident documentation, and reporting procedures.
It can also be beneficial to teach employees to recognize any suspicious behaviors or ORC activities as employees can then immediately report issues to store management.
Loss Prevention Staff
For businesses struggling with frequent episodes of theft, it may be a good idea to consider hiring dedicated loss prevention staff specifically trained to handle ORC prevention and other shoplifting incidents.
The easier it is to access goods, the easier they are to steal. While it can cause inconvenience to everyday shoppers to put product behind locked cases, it can also save the store a significant amount in product loss. Locked cases are particularly practical when it comes to high-value, highly portable items. Used sparingly, the hassle for regular customers doesn’t take over the shopping experience.
Radio frequency identification (RFID) tags attach directly to products as either stickers or ink-loaded plastic pieces. These tags send radio signals that can be deactivated at checkout once the product is paid for. If someone attempts to remove the merchandise without paying (and thus without deactivating the tag), it triggers an alarm as they attempt to leave the store.
INTEGRATED SECURITY SYSTEM
Integrate the various components of your security system as tightly as possible to create a comprehensive network that more efficiently facilitates ORC prevention. In order to combine the different aspects of your system as closely as possible, look for products with easy compatibility and integration features as you build your business’s security system.
Consider components such as access control, security cameras, and analytics software.
Door Locks and Access Control
Whether you decide to go old school with traditional locks and keys or high tech with keypads and unique access codes, it’s a good idea to have locks in place to protect your back entrances and product inventory stores. Systems that allow for a unique access code for each employee have the added bonus of preventing employees from lending keys or codes as an ORC group’s inside man (as their unique code would directly implicate them in any crimes committed).
Indoor Security Cameras
High-resolution security cameras are one of the most common and most effective measures you can take to deter, catch, and record criminal activities. Cameras should have clear lines of sight down aisles with minimized blind spots, and should be clearly placed behind cash registers, inside storage rooms, and near all entrances and exits.
Cameras connected to analytics-enabled platforms and/or third-party monitoring services are able to alert you to any suspicious activities, giving you the ability to respond in real time.
Parking Lot Mobile Security Units
Mobile security units provide all the same benefits as indoor security cameras (deter, detect, and record), but with the distinction of being particularly obvious (serving as an extra warning) and the ability to operate without connection to regular utilities. The presence of mobile security units in your parking lot is the first indicator to ORC groups that your business takes security seriously, making you a less desirable target.
Data Analytics and AI
Connection to a security platform (such as the LVT Platform) can make a world of difference in your ability to identify repeat offenders, analyze patterns and trends, and predict potential ORC activities. By leveraging data analytics and AI capabilities, you can identify high-risk areas and respond accordingly.
Some platforms will also enable you to automate responses to certain types of security incidents, including responses such as triggering sirens and flashing lights, locking doors, and alerting law enforcement personnel.
LAW ENFORCEMENT COLLABORATION
It’s important to report all incidents of theft to law enforcement as this leads to better ORC awareness and responsive measures. Evidence provided from retailers can help identify and prosecute criminals. This evidence can be easily shared with law enforcement via cloud-based security platforms.