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Ask the Expert: Overcoming Challenges to Effectively Combat Retail Crime

Interview with Robert Parks, LPC, CFI

Robert Parks, LPC, CFI

Parks is a commercial solutions consultant for Flock Safety with over fifteen years of experience in global security operations, programs, and technology management. He formerly served as head of public safety at a large healthcare organization and as manager of asset protection at a major international retail chain. Prior to joining the private sector, Parks was a law enforcement officer and worked for the Department of Homeland Security.

Considering the increase in violence occurring in retail stores, how can retailers provide better protection to their customers and staff while keeping out would-be offenders?

It’s an unfortunate reality that customers are increasingly finding themselves unwittingly caught up in dangerous situations that stem from shoplifting. This is why it’s crucial for retailers to deter potential violence before it takes place without making a scene or endangering innocent bystanders. Apart from violent incidents, retail store leaders must remain vigilant against a wide variety of other crimes, such as stalking, sexual offenses, and even kidnappings, if offenders make their way into stores. Additionally, thieves may steal items from customers’ cars or even steal the cars themselves, and some may follow customers out of the store with the intention of robbing them.

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Retailers have a responsibility to protect their customers not just inside their stores, but also in the surrounding area. It’s essential to take a proactive approach to security to help prevent these types of incidents from occurring. Installing perimeter security measures, such as automated license plate recognition (ALPR) technology, can help extend your awareness to the very moment a known threat enters your parking lot. Heading off would-be offenders before they reach the store ensures minimum disruption to customers and employees, and ultimately, is the best-case scenario for your establishment.

It appears that retail jobs are becoming less attractive due to store violence, resulting in high turnover and labor shortages. What steps can retailers take to protect employees and retain staff?

The prevalence of organized retail crime (ORC) has led to an increase in violence, causing staff to fear for their safety. To address this concern, retailers must prioritize the safety of their employees and implement appropriate tools and training to keep them out of harm’s way.

Leveraging technology alongside training provides an added layer of protection for employees. It’s important to ensure that staff outside of the security team do not interfere with criminal activity, as this can put them in danger. Early alerting of known ORC or violent individuals gives staff enough time to protect themselves and prevent harm. Ultimately, a comprehensive safety strategy that combines training, technology, and early warning systems is crucial to protecting retail staff from violence and ORC.

Despite the widespread use of video surveillance, why isn’t this enough to deter shoplifting, particularly when it involves ORC?

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While video surveillance can be one tool for deterring shoplifting and other forms of theft, it is not always enough to deter smart and prepared ORC criminals. ORC groups are often highly organized, sophisticated, and take steps to avoid detection by video surveillance systems. For example, they may wear disguises or use other tactics to conceal their identities, or they may use distraction techniques to divert the attention of store personnel and security cameras.

Moreover, even if surveillance footage is captured, identifying perpetrators can be difficult without additional evidence. ORC groups may use stolen or counterfeit identification documents, making it difficult to track them down. Additionally, even when suspects are identified, they are often part of a larger network that is difficult to dismantle. Retailers should consider implementing additional security measures such as proactive perimeter technologies to complement their video surveillance systems and help prevent theft from occurring in the first place.

Why is a multi-layered security strategy crucial, and how can retailers implement technology to make it successful?

Multi-layered security involves using a variety of protection measures to secure the physical premises of the store, as well as the people and assets within it. Technology should be your first line of defense against external theft, including theft linked to ORC. While physical security measures help to create a barrier between a potential threat and retail property, technology-based solutions can provide real-time information about potential threats, help to alert authorities, and prevent unauthorized access.

- Digital Partner -

Adding smart security technology like IoT sensors, artificial intelligence tools, ALPRs, and other real-time technology provides a set of “electronic eyes” to monitor the site perimeter. A retailer can create a virtual security perimeter with license plate recognition cameras by positioning them on ingress and egress points. The vehicle data can then be used by LP / AP teams to quickly identify and intercept threats in real-time. Retailers should also stay up to date on the latest security technologies and best practices and be prepared to adapt their security strategies as needed.

Are there any ways in which retailers can strengthen investigations to prevent repeat offenders from returning?

To prevent repeat offenders from returning, retailers can take several steps to strengthen their investigations. One approach is to enhance their surveillance capabilities by investing in advanced technologies such as video analytics and ALPR. These tools can help identify known offenders and gather intelligence to reduce future threats. Creating a centralized database of known offenders can also be useful in preventing repeat offenses. Retailers can share this database across stores, making it easier to track the activity of known offenders and prevent them from returning to any of the retailer’s locations.

In addition, retailers should build strategic partnerships with local law enforcement to prevent repeat offenders from returning. This can include sharing information on known offenders and coordinating efforts to track and apprehend them. Retailers should also conduct thorough investigations into all incidents of theft and other criminal activity. Gathering and preserving evidence is crucial in identifying and prosecuting offenders to the fullest extent of the law.

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