Retail crime is often thought of as shoplifting or stealing. I mean how many people have you heard of that took something from the store when they were kids before their parents made them return it? Shoplifting happens all the time. However, it is not the crime that keeps asset protection and loss prevention leaders up at night.
Violent crimes are taking over retail locations. According to the FBI, parking lots are the second most-common location for property crimes and the third most-common location for violent crimes.
If you haven’t noticed, retailers have big parking lots. When retailers are building their store, they have to meet local codes for how many parking stalls they need to have. The common ratio is 4 stalls for every 1,000 square feet of store. This means that most large stores have between 800 to 1,200 parking stalls. That’s a lot of space with no walls, locks, or barriers to protect it. It also means a store can easily have 800 to 1,200 vehicles and drivers on their property at any given time. That’s 800 to 1,200 potential targets without factoring in additional passengers who came to the store, those who took public transit or rideshares, or those who may have walked to the store.
Clearly retailers have more to protect than just the products on their shelves.
The customer perspective
Customers aren’t naïve. They know that by going outside, there is a chance, no matter how slim, of something happening to them or their car. However, most of the time they don’t think about it because the pros of convenient shopping far outweigh the potential cons. However, in a recent study, customers voiced their concerns about the dangers of parking lots. Interestingly, more of them worried about incidents caused by bad actors, putting the pressure on retailers to find a way to protect their lots. The study found that:
- 54% of customer worry about being approached in the parking lot
- 51% of customers worry about being followed to their cars
- 36% of customers are concerned about damage to their cars in the parking lots
In order to make their business safer for both customers and employees, retailers are starting to live by the saying that the best defense is a good offense. They are taking a proactive approach to safety and security that revolves around three pillars:
Deterring is one of our favorite words at LVT. We love to send would-be criminals running by hardening the target and increasing the impression of control. Retailers are deploying mobile security towers, like those from LVT, as well as other security measures. Some of these include:
- Security guards both inside and outside the store
- Off duty police officers
- Increased lighting
- Controlled flow of traffic (i.e. one way gates in the store)
- Partnerships with solution providers
By hardening the target, retailers are stopping incidents and crimes from ever happening. Most criminals naturally go for the lowest hanging fruit, so when stores show that they can and will defend their property, criminals will go where it is easier pickings. They don’t want to be caught and every level of security makes it harder for them to make a clean getaway.
Detection is another key to retailers’ efforts. If they can identify the criminals or even their vehicles, it makes stopping the crime much easier. For example, thieves were attempting to steal a moving truck and thanks to video monitoring, the retailer was able to send audio alerts while contacting law enforcement. Not only was the retailer able to detect the crime in progress, they were able to provide officers with descriptions of the thieves, the truck, and the location. Officers made the stop and recovered more than $4,000 of merchandise.
Not every story ends with this happily ever after for the retailers. Often, the thieves get away with the merchandise. But detection isn’t just about stopping a crime in the moment. It is also meant to gather evidence to help arrest and prosecute the criminals in the future, to track patterns, and to collect data. With the uptick in crime and a shift in laws, more retail investigation departments have to prebuild the case for law enforcement and district attorneys. Video evidence is the keystone to building solid cases.
Respond is the next, and final, step. Einstein once said the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results. Without respond, deterrence and detection would just be an endless loop of trying to scare away criminals and watching what they do. There would be no change. Responding is the action that deterrence and detection lead to. This is where retailers work with multiple solution providers to either respond in the moment, like the moving truck example above, or to respond with evidence at a later date. And the response doesn’t have to be just collecting evidence for law enforcement and district attorneys. Retailers can use the evidence to train future employees, to influence policies, or even to change their security efforts to better protect their employees and customers.
To learn more about the proactive approach retailers are using to defend their parking lots, watch this webinar from the Loss Prevention Research Council.