Keeping Employees Safe in the Face of Rising Retail Crime

The increasing frequency and severity of retail crime continues to make waves in the national news and impact consumers and businesses across the country. Just recently, we’ve seen Starbucks choose to close locations and Walgreens reduce its operating hours in certain cities.

In addition to impacting revenue, the lesser discussed—but equally detrimental—consequence is the heavy toll that retail crime is taking on employees. A 2021 study reported that 86 percent of asset protection managers said that an organized retail criminal had verbally threatened an associate with bodily harm and 76 percent reported that an associate had been physically assaulted. Retail is becoming an increasingly unsafe environment in which to work, making it more difficult for companies to hire and retain employees in an industry that is already stretched thin by labor shortages.

To help alleviate this problem, retailers need to take an integrated approach to employee safety and building security. Point solutions that address only parts of the problem are no longer enough. Fortunately, there are many ways that retailers can leverage natively integrated security systems to both protect their employees and make stores less likely targets for theft or property crime.

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Equip Employees with Integrated, Customizable Panic Buttons

Whether it’s an armed break-in or a belligerent customer, companies should always provide a way for employees to immediately and discreetly call for help if they feel threatened. This is particularly important in higher-risk settings, such as opening or closing shifts or stores in higher crime areas. Panic buttons are a simple way to ensure that employees are able to request assistance when they need it, whether that means notifying on-site staff or requesting immediate police dispatch.

With no shortage of panic button solutions on the market, look for one that offers powerful response options that fit your needs. For example, panic buttons that integrate with access control systems allow employees to lock down doors at the press of a button, securing the premises from external threats. Some panic buttons can even be directly paired with in-store cameras, allowing off-site managers or security teams to immediately pull up a live video feed of the area in which the button was pressed.

Panic buttons should be wireless and easily carried around by employees. Buttons mounted at the cash register or in back rooms are important, but employees moving around a store should be equally able to call for immediate help. Also ensure that there is a mechanism to prevent false alarms. Buttons that require a triple press or press-and-hold, for example, dramatically reduce the number of accidental presses.

Get Alerted When a Repeat Offender Shows Up

Many shoplifters and thieves are repeat offenders. If they have managed to avoid getting caught in the past, many will continue to commit theft or vandalism, often despite surveillance measures in plain sight. Unfortunately, successful repeat offenders may also pose a greater risk to employees as they commit crimes with less concern for the consequences.

The good news is that next-gen security cameras make it easier for repeat offenders to be identified. Cameras with people analytics features allow security teams to see how many times a given person is in a building during a certain period of time. Person-of-interest alerts are even more powerful, notifying security teams when a designated individual shows up on camera so they can take action.

Features like these give security and loss prevention teams the ability to be more proactive and vigilant when circumstances warrant it, and help them target store security resources where they’re most needed.

Increase After Hours Security to Make Stores Less of a Target

Putting employee safety measures in place during operating hours is critical, but preventing your store from becoming an after hours target can also discourage thieves from coming back during the day and risking employee safety.

For some retailers, layering professional video monitoring on top of cameras with people detection capabilities is a lightweight and efficient solution. If a camera detects a person on-site after hours, monitoring agents can notify security teams or even request police dispatch directly. This turns your security cameras into a fully fledged alarm system, giving you the power to catch intruders in the act, rather than simply review incident footage after the fact.

Integrated video monitoring can also be layered on top of a company’s intrusion detection sensors, or paired with access control systems. This not only adds an extra layer of protection, but also helps to eliminate false alarms by using camera footage to verify that any alarm triggered by a sensor or door is real. In many jurisdictions, video-verified alarms are necessary to receive priority police response.

Video monitoring can be an expensive add-on to standard alarm monitoring services, so look for a solution that bundles the two at no extra cost and does not have limits on how many events can be reviewed.

Regardless of what intrusion detection system a retailer has in place, it’s critical to also consider intrusion deterrence capabilities. When police cannot respond in time, alarm signaling devices such as sirens or strobe lights can scare off intruders before they can do damage. Again, look for an integrated solution here that will let you configure these deterrence devices as automated responses if an alarm is triggered. Manually relying on an employee to take action will take too long to be effective.

Keep Your Stores Safe—On or Off Site

When it comes to physical security, retailers often ask a lot of security staff, store managers, and IT personnel. Particularly when companies operate multiple locations, stores may not have a dedicated on-site security team, leaving employees feeling vulnerable.

Easy and effective remote security management is therefore critical. Your security system should give security personnel, store managers, and corporate teams the ability to monitor and share camera footage, see incident reports, and take immediate action across systems from any computer or mobile device. An integrated security solution that can be managed from a single pane of glass significantly shortens response time and makes it easier to take action remotely, helping to keep both people and property safer.

Investing in Employee Safety

The effects that retail crime has on employees have far-reaching business consequences. Apart from the need for increased security measures, it’s becoming harder to retain employees if they feel unsafe in their working environments. This, in turn, requires companies to spend more time and money on hiring and training new employees. Combined with actual product shrinkage, this can create real revenue challenges for retailers.

Investing in a modern, integrated security solution that combines AI-enabled cameras, professional video monitoring, smart intrusion sensors, customizable panic buttons, automated intrusion deterrence, and easy remote management gives retailers the best chance of preventing break-ins, reducing shrinkage, and—most importantly—keeping employees safe in a world of rising retail crime.


Jake Stauch

Jake is the director of product for Verkada, heading up the Alarms and Intrusion business. Over the past several years, Jake has led the development and launch of multiple enterprise security product lines, including Verkada’s dome and bullet series cameras, environmental sensors, automatic license plate recognition, intrusion detection, and professional alarm and camera monitoring.

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