Breaking News in the Industry: January 5, 2018

Pot-sniffing dog helps curb employee theft at marijuana dispensary

Security at marijuana dispensaries is paramount, and man’s best friend is helping keep people honest at one dispensary. Many marijuana businesses already have 24-hour armed security, but K-9’s can do something no human can do. They can sniff out pot making its way out of the doors with dishonest employees.  Three-year-old German Shepherd, Nero, works behind the scenes catching employees with sticky fingers.  Nero is an invaluable member of the security team at Reef Dispensary. Customers are not likely to see Nero.  “During the day, during any break when people are going to go out for lunch or home for the day the dog comes out, and the people stand in line and the dog searches everybody,” said Guy Joslin, K-9 Program Manager, Tryke Security.

Joslin is Nero’s handler. He’s trained the K-9 to detect pot products during a strip search inside a facility where everything smells like marijuana. “We just change his thresholds for odor,” said Joslin.  “In other words, the ambient odor that people have on them, we imitate that in our training and the dog does not get rewarded for it.”  “You can put a chunk of beef in there; he doesn’t care about it,” said Joslin.  During a demonstration, Nero searches a worker, and when he makes a find, the K-9 alerts Joslin by sitting down. “We immediately reward the dog when he finds an object that is giving off odor,” Joslin said.  His reward is his favorite toy, which is a tennis ball. Nero joined the security team in May 2016 after three weeks of training.  He has already proven to be effective. “He stopped some theft,” said Joslin.  “Nero, as far as I know, is the very first dog in the marijuana industry to do this kind of work.”  [Source: Las Vegas Now]

Shoplifting suspect caught on camera attacking store employee with pepper spray [Viral Video]

New surveillance video shows a woman attacking a store loss prevention associate with pepper spray during a shoplifting incident. Police are now asking for your help to identify the people involved. Police said those women got away with a bunch of clothes from J.C. Penney. The lp associate caught them stealing, so she confronted them and that’s when one of the women used pepper spray to get away, according to a police report. Surveillance video from December 20 shows three women walking into the J.C. Penney at the Greenwood Park Mall. An LP associate told police she got off the elevator and saw them putting clothes into a black bag. One of them began walking toward the exit and that’s when the alarm went off. “As the associate approached the first two who had concealed the merchandise, the third one came up and sprayed her in the face with some kind of chemical mace,” said Matt Fillenwarth, who is the assistant chief of police for Greenwood Police. In the video you can see the 66-year-old store employee coughing. Another man tries to stop the suspects and runs after them, but he too is overcome by the spray.

The whole incident lasted for a couple of seconds. “We don’t know at this time if it’s the same suspect,” said Fillenwarth. “But we had a similar incident at a different store at the mall.” That incident happened at Von Maur on December 4th. A loss prevention officer was trying to hold back one of two female suspects when she was attacked with the pepper spray. During the struggle, the suspects dropped more than $1,000 worth of stolen merchandise. They managed to get away with two pairs of designer jeans. “It’s not something that a lot of your shoplifters are willing to get those extra charges for,” said FIllenwarth. Police said using pepper spray can be dangerous and in rare cases, deadly. “There are documented cases, mostly through police departments in the past where people had allergic reactions to them, anaphylactic shock and people have died from being exposed to chemical mace,” Fillenwarth said. Detectives are still trying to figure out if there’s a connection between the two cases, but if you recognize any of the suspects you’re asked to call Greenwood police at (317) 882- 9191. “Someone knows who they are and I’m sure these three suspects talked about with their friends what they did,” Fillenwarth said. Witnesses provided police with the license plate number of the getaway car in both cases. The store employee and loss prevention officer are okay.  [Source: WISHTV8 News]

DHS data breach affects 250,000 staffers, investigation subjects, and witnesses

More than 250,000 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) employees along with individuals involved in on-going DHS criminal investigations, including witnesses, had their personally identifiable information (PII) compromised in a data breach. DHS is in the process of notifying 247,167 current and former staffers and an unknown number of additional people involved in DHS investigations that their PII was discovered in May 2017 in the possession of a former DHS Office of the Inspector General (OIG) employee who was part of an on-going criminal investigation. The database included PII from those who were employed by DHS in 2014 and a separate group subjects, such as, government employees, witnesses, and complainants associated with DHS OIG investigations from 2002 through 2014. “The privacy incident did not stem from a cyber-attack by external actors, and the evidence indicates that affected individual’s personal information was not the primary target of the unauthorized exfiltration,” said Philip Kaplan, DHS’ chief privacy officer, in a statement.

DHS did not indicate whether the compromised PII has been used in a malicious manner. The compromised information included in the exposed DHS employee database included names, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, positions, grades, and duty stations. This information had been compiled by the DHS OIG to conduct identity confirmation during investigations. The information exposed for the group containing people directly associated with investigations was much more detailed and included data associated with on-going cases. “The PII contained in this database varies for each individual depending on the documentation and evidence collected for a given case.  Information contained in this database could include names, Social Security numbers, alien registration numbers, dates of birth, email addresses, phone numbers, addresses, and personal information provided in interviews with DHS OIG investigative agents,” Kaplan said. DHS said it took eight months to reveal this news because the data breach was closely associated with an on-going criminal investigation.  The government is offering 18 months of free credit monitoring to the affected individuals.  [Source: SC Media]

Holiday sales see biggest increase since 2011

Retailers have plenty to cheer at the beginning of the new year. Holiday sales increased 4.9% in 2017, setting a new record for dollars spent, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse. It was largest year-over-year increase since 2011. Online shopping saw large gains of 18.1% compared to 2016, boosted by a late season rally. (The SpendingPulse report details holiday shopping from Nov.1 through Dec. 24 and covers retail sales across all payment types.) In-store traffic saw a big rise on Super Saturday (Dec. 23), increasing 20% over year, according to data from Shoppertrak. (Saturday, Dec. 16 and Sunday, Dec. 17, also performed exceptionally well, posting a 2.8% increase in traffic over last year, the company reported.) “The drastic increase in shopper visits supports our data-backed assertion that Super Saturday’s impact increases based on its proximity to Christmas Day,” Shoppertrak stated.” Last year, with it being more than a week away from Christmas Day last year, the day had less urgency. This year, Super Saturday was only two days away from Christmas Day, and it served as the last full shopping day prior to Christmas, motivating shoppers to get out and hit the stores.” last year,

Although it was a winning holiday season for retail overall, the story was different category by category, according to Mastercard. Electronics and appliances increased 7.5%, the strongest growth of the last 10 years. The home furniture and furnishings category grew 5.1%, as did home improvement. Specialty apparel and department stores, which both traditionally see the bulk of sales happen in-store, saw moderate gains. This is particularly impressive given recent store closings, Mastercard noted. Additional findings of the Mastercard SpendingPulse report include:

  • Retailers’ heavy early-season promotions paid off, with the first three weeks of November seeing significant jumps.
  • In addition, shoppers were still spending late into the season, with Dec. 23 next to Black Friday in terms of single-day spending. This was a boon to certain categories, including jewelry. Jewelry grew 5.9%, largely driven by last-minute sales.

“Overall, this year was a big win for retail,” said Sarah Quinlan, senior VP of Market Insights, Mastercard. “The strong U.S. economy was a contributing factor, but we also have to recognize that retailers who tried new strategies to engage holiday shoppers were the beneficiaries of this sales increase.”   [Source: Chain Store Age]

Expert says change in law fuels shoplifters to steal more, and more often

Several cases of Spam were stolen Wednesday night from a Pearl City grocery store. It happened at Safeway in Waimalu. Customer Arlene Sua was right behind the man when she says he grabbed eight cases of Spam and walked right out the door. “That’s when I thought, ‘Okay, this isn’t real. No, he’s not going to take it, no, no. Next thing I knew once he passed the register, that’s when I heard the intercom management to the front and it was really fast,” Sua said. She says the man got away with it. A similar incident occurred just last week when three women tried to steal a shopping cart with 18 cases of the popular canned meat from Longs Drugs in Ewa Beach. In that case, a shopper confronted them, so they left the Spam behind and instead ran off with other stolen items. So why are we seeing more of this type of crime?

Reporters spoke with a retail expert who says it’s because of a law passed last year that raised the threshold level for felony theft from $300 to $750. Tina Yamaki, president of Retail Merchants of Hawaii, says the higher threshold means thieves can steal more before facing stiffer penalties. “They know that so they steal right under that $750 line,” she said. Thieves aren’t just targeting canned goods. All types of merchandise are being stolen, and because of the law, thieves are stealing more of them. Among the items being targeted by more thieves are designer clothes, electronics, and power tools. Yamaki says thieves are not just stealing more items, they’re also getting more dangerous. “They’re just getting a lot more brazen. A lot of times when loss prevention is trying to apprehend them, they’re being attacked. Either they’re getting punched or they’re seeing knives being used. I’ve heard of some guns a couple of times,” said Yamaki. She adds that many stores have taken to putting targeted items behind counters and even locked up. She encourages customers to report the thefts, because in the end, we all pay the price. “If you see somebody stealing something, let the store clerks know, because a lot of times when things are stolen, it raises up the prices, because somebody has to pay and unfortunately it’s always the customer who ends up paying,” said Yamaki.  [Source: KHON2 News]

Knife-wielding shoplifter asked police how it could have been a robbery

A man accused of trying to steal tools from a Tacoma hardware store and swinging a knife inches from the face of a security officer who tried to stop him has been charged with robbery. And as the 28-year-old was arrested Friday, he expressed confusion at being suspected of that crime. “But why robbery if they got their stuff back?” he asked police, according to charging papers. Those papers give this account of what happened. The man grabbed a roughly $400 tool kit at the store in the 7000 block of Tacoma Mall Boulevard and took it to the gardening section. There he used a tool to tamper with the security sensor, then put the tool kit in a shopping cart and wheeled it out of the store. He showed an employee an unrelated receipt on his way out but that didn’t fool the nearby security officer, who had been watching.

The officer confronted the thief in the parking lot, which is when the thief turned into a robber, according to charging papers. The man shoved the security officer and pulled a folding knife with a 3-inch blade when a struggle ensued. He swung it several times, just inches from the security officer’s face and then fled — apparently without the merchandise. Police later found the suspect’s truck and pulled him over and arrested him. He denied having a knife at the store, but police found one in the passenger seat of his truck that matched the description of the one used in the attack. He pleaded not guilty at arraignment Tuesday and was ordered held in lieu of $80,000 bail. In addition to first-degree robbery, he was also charged with second-degree assault, third-degree retail theft with special circumstances, driving with a suspended license and failing to have an ignition-interlock device in his truck — to keep him from driving after drinking alcohol.  [Source: The News Tribune]

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