As part of last week’s LPM Insider survey, we debated whether a loss prevention associate used excessive force in an encounter with a 16-year-old girl accused of shoplifting. The majority of those surveyed believed that the LP representative’s actions were justified based on the situation. Others believed that the LP representative should have allowed the shoplifter to leave when she resisted, and there were also a few respondents that felt that the actions of the LP representative were inappropriate.
While there may be some debate over how this particular situation was handled by the LP representative, another critical aspect of the incident involved the assault of the LP representative as he attempted to detain the shoplifter
The nature of the apprehension process always has the potential to lead to volatile situations. Yet despite employee training and company policies intended to mitigate these situations, incidents still occur on a regular and consistent basis that involve the assault of loss prevention professionals during the apprehension process—some leading to tragic results. Even for the most seasoned professionals, when shoplifters are faced with the threat of detainment and potential criminal charges, emotions can run high and individuals can be unpredictable.
Regardless of our current positions, most of those in loss prevention still have roots as representatives apprehending shoplifters. Has it ever happened to you?
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A large majority of our survey respondents (87 percent) claim that they have been assaulted when attempting to detain a shoplifter despite following company guidelines and training, with 24 percent saying they have been assaulted once and 63 percent revealing that they have been assaulted on multiple occasions.
Approximately 10 percent indicate that while there have been situations that could have escalated further, they have always been able to detain shoplifters without being assaulted. Another 3 percent state that if the situation escalated to where they thought violence may result, they simply let the shoplifter go
Here is a sampling of your comments:
“Despite using proper guidelines, I have been punched and bitten by shoplifters.”
“This could have been prevented if other employees who were watching alerted me to an accomplice who kicked me in the head while taking a suspect into custody.”
“Many shoplifters can be escorted inside without incident or simply by using a calm, respectful tone and talking to them all the way back to the office. This keeps their mind occupied and lessens the likelihood of an altercation. However, regardless of taking every precaution and treating the subject in a respectful way there are those that will fight, argue, scream, or do anything they can to get away or create a scene.”
“We have to expect and prepare for the worst with every apprehension to protect ourselves and others nearby but we must also take the high-road and give them the chance to comply without problems. Should they decide to fight with us we have to very quickly assess whether to continue with the apprehension, which may include a struggle to get them restrained, or to let them go. Many times it’s a split-second decision, so it’s best to think it through beforehand by asking yourself- ‘what if’ so that you are prepared or have back up support ready just in case.”
“Yes. Despite what some in corporate offices seem to believe – shoplifters don’t always disengage just because you do. Even after we have disengaged, we have had shoplifters follow us back into the building attempting to fight us on numerous occasions – even with no physical contact initiated on our part.”
“Company policies ‘back in the day’ encouraged stopping shoplifters via physical force. While holding shoplifter down on ground, he bit me so hard that I had to get a tetanus shot.”
“Based off of pure fear of liability, companies have ‘tempered’ the LP position and people committing the crime of theft, credit card fraud, burglary etc. know it! Police departments have raised the dollar amount for grand theft, and oftentimes refuse to take a case for what it is. That action is based off of keeping crime statistics low and the city doesn’t look like it has a high crime rate.”
“Yes, I have had a few violent encounters from ORC groups and drug addicts. This is why I got out of the Loss Prevention industry. I don’t mind going hands-on with a resisting subject, but the standards and protocols for ‘hands-on’ apprehension are too abstruse and ambiguous. It serves to protect the corporation as a whole; but throws the agent under the bus with any liability pursuits from the criminal. The executives are at the top of the echelon, sitting behind their desks stating, ‘Well, we trained them, they knew the procedures,’ are the same ones terminating you once a subject gets physical.”
Do you have any additional thoughts? Let us know what’s on your mind in the comments below.