How many retailers think or know they have an organized retail crime (ORC) problem? Even of those that say they do, how many can quantify exactly what the problem is? If they can, do they address it? Is this because they don’t have the resources (either technological or physical)? If they do have adequate resources, do they know where to start?
How many loss prevention departments have educated their businesses about ORC methods or have the confidence or support of their senior executives to be allowed to persevere with an investigation for as long as necessary (in some instances, letting crimes be committed in order to gain evidence and incurring ongoing costs)? How many LP departments just facilitate senior management requests and direction and resolve the theft at the earliest opportunity?
Ultimately, to succeed in ORC investigations, you may need to allow a theft to occur and take no action—just to help you build a better picture as to who is involved, where the goods are going, and so forth. How will individuals get the backing for this with pressure from all sides within their organizations to resolve the issue?
It is understandable, when questioned as to the validity of an investigation (when committing resources and ultimately money), to give in, but doing so will not reveal the true network of who is involved and potentially may exacerbate the problem, leaving an even bigger issue to deal with as the ORC network grows.
With a lack of understanding of ORC methods (as well as a lack of budget and available resources) among law enforcement, how many retailers may want to take the next step and continue further with an investigation?
Surveillance, with a view to building evidence against individuals, is one way of doing something that is traditionally seen as the remit of law enforcement. This can be done with the help of specialist third parties or even, for those retailers with sizable teams, within the retail organization itself. This is not a decision to be taken lightly. It can be fraught with issues if not managed properly, but it can reap extreme benefits.
There are a number of things to take into consideration, regardless of which option you take:
- Make sure senior managers are aware of what you are about to embark on.
- Ensure that you have necessary insurances in place.
- Select the people you are going to deploy for this task wisely. This may seem exciting and “cops and robbers,” but this is real life, not a reality TV show.
- Select a company to provide the appropriate organized retail crime training. This is imperative to ensure that all operatives are working to the same standards and that if something went wrong you can show an audit trail.
- Determine which types of surveillance you are going to carry out: foot, vehicle, public transport, static, and so forth. Ensure that you have training and procedures for all.
- Establish a clearly defined set of policies, procedures, and operating principles (including risk assessments) and make sure the entire team understands them.
- Liaise closely with your legal and PR departments, which you will deal with when an ORC investigation is in progress or concluded.
There are more things to consider, but concern number one is to remember that people are involved, and you are representing your organization. The last thing you want is someone getting hurt or the brand receiving bad publicity due to your actions.
Some retailers allocate LP personnel specifically to focus on ORC methods, with some companies having large amounts of resource dedicated to identifying and combating it. However, organizations do not need a large LP team to understand the issue of ORC and to start to do something about it. An organization can start small, understand the size of the problem, and then create a strategy to combat it, scaling up as needed.
“The Growing ORC Issue” was originally published in LP Magazine Europe in 2016. This excerpt was updated May 16, 2017.