As successful organizations continue to evolve, change is an inevitable part of growth. By building on our successes and learning from the different challenges we face, each step then becomes an opportunity to take our mission and vision to another level. Over time, new leadership is often part of the process, injecting fresh perspectives that help us capitalize on everything we’ve accomplished thus far while adding a new dimension that helps us move forward. Welcoming these changes and learning to adapt is vital to achieving our shared goals, allowing us the freedom to shift gears and step outside our comfort zone to open new doors—and create exciting new opportunities.
This is especially true in a profession such as loss prevention, where the ability to grow and adapt is synonymous with success. Considering the dynamic needs of today’s retail, working in loss prevention requires expertise in several different areas, but it also demands the flexibility that comes with growth and change. This must be an inherent part of our character and is invaluable to remaining successful in the industry.
Join us in a conversation with Allie Falk and Caroline Kochman, the new president at The Loss Prevention Foundation, as she shares her vision, insights, experiences, suggestions, and more as she takes on this new leadership role.
Allie Falk: Caroline, you’ve been a part of the industry for a long time, but as LPF’s new president, many people are curious and interested in learning more about who you are. Can you share a little more about your background?
Caroline Kochman: I’ve been connected to loss prevention since I was in high school. My father, Peter Berlin, was an experienced loss prevention executive who wrote industry newsletters before he founded Shoplifters Anonymous—now known as the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention (NASP). I was his proofreader back in the day. Considering that I had to read two LP newsletters a month, you can imagine that when I left for college, I had no interest in LP as a career. I got my BS in sociology with the idea of studying societal and human behavior. I always loved learning about what made people and society tick.
However, as I was looking to build my own future, I ultimately realized that NASP gave me a chance to focus on both the crime of shoplifting and the people who commit it as the socio-economic issue it is. It was an opportunity to look at it in a more complete way—not just about the shoplifter, not just about rehabilitation, but as a program that could benefit society as a whole. This was a focus I was passionate about.
When my father retired in 2006, I was appointed executive director. Drawing upon my background in sociology and the foundation that had been laid, I knew my first priority had to be a rebranding of the organization and a fundamental redesign and refocus of its mission, programs, and services from solely research and rehabilitation to include education, prevention, support, and community action.
I’ll give you an example: back in the 90’s the idea of using education to change shoplifter behavior seemed ridiculous and we were told, “An educational program can’t stop someone from stealing.” However, we knew the criminal justice system needed to make diversion a more effective tool and not just a “free pass” for shoplifters, so we were undeterred. I went door-to-door training and educating prosecutors, probation officers, and police departments on why shoplifters steal and how offense-specific education and support changes behavior and effectively reduces repeat offenses. The idea went viral, and the success of the program sold itself. Once we were able to get one county to start using it, the surrounding counties would begin using it as well. Within ten years, the program was in all fifty states and more than 2,000 jurisdictions across the country. We’ve successfully expanded our focus to create a program used in communities nationwide.
Today, NASP is well known as a non-profit organization whose mission is to raise public awareness about the harmful effects of shoplifting on youth, families, and communities; unite public opinion toward constructive solutions; deliver needed programs and services; engage community action in prevention efforts; and ultimately reduce the number of people who become involved in shoplifting. The overarching goal is to bridge the gaps between retailers, law enforcement, and the criminal justice system. By creating a streamlined and uniform response to shoplifting, the idea is to develop a program that minimizes the expenditure of these critical resources by preventing recidivism and improving safety in the stores and our communities.
Allie: These methods hadn’t been attempted before, especially on this scale. Why do you think developing this approach was successful, gaining the momentum that it did?
Caroline: There were several reasons. First and foremost, the education was effective. I think this was largely due to the time we put into the research with the shoplifters to help make the program meaningful and productive. For the amateur offender, we were speaking to them in a way that appealed to them on a human level. That made an impression—we weren’t the courts, we weren’t the retailer, we were an educational organization there to help. The court was simply the referral method. The focus was on them, and I think that contributed to the success of the program.
Second, the way we managed and implemented the program was of huge value to the criminal justice system. We reduced court caseloads, helped probation officers close their cases faster, and helped them accomplish the imperative of the court system—to reduce recidivism. The results were significant, and the word spread to other court systems. Recidivism rates among shoplifting offenders prior to the program were an alarming 30‑40 percent. However, after successfully completing a NASP program, court conducted studies revealed that repeat offender rates had been reduced to less than 3 percent.
Allie: By making that journey, what do you think were the most important skills you developed?
Caroline: Patience, perseverance, flexibility, and resiliency. It’s critical to adjust to changing conditions but just as important to always stay the course. If you focus on the mission, the rest follows. The program was not an easy sell at the time. We had to convince the courts and then the retail industry.
Those traits are important for everyone. All of us can become very entrenched in our ways, and at times we’re not always receptive to change. It took time, but we got buy-in from the courts. And the LP industry has really evolved, becoming so much more than it was in the past. We are a more complete industry with objectives that reach into different areas of the retail enterprise beyond a shoplifter-focused approach. These changes have made an impact in many ways and made us better at what we do.
For example, the NASP program doesn’t work for some people—it works for people who want that type of help. These programs were created for first time offenders, not hardened criminals. While the format is the same, we had a different program for adults than we did for juveniles because they relate to things in different ways. This isn’t a “bleeding heart” approach. There’s an empathetic and a humanistic side as well as a scientific side and we can’t put every problem in the same bucket. We must be flexible and open‑minded in everything we do. We want to hold people accountable, but we also want to solve the problem. And we want to do it for the right reasons. We need to engage the problem in ways that are most effective and beneficial.
I think we need to keep that same focus on the endgame as an industry. That kind of translates into everything we’re doing now.
Allie: What led you to the decision to join the LPF?
Caroline: Good question—it was an interesting process for sure. There is a lot of synergy between NASP and the LPF/LPM organizations and their mutual focus on education. I was excited about the opportunity to work with the LPF/LPM teams and boards to build on an already amazing foundation.
Allie: With your background in mind, what is your vision as president of LPF? What direction would you like to see it go moving forward?
Caroline: I came in with a vision, but that vision is still evolving. The LPF team has done a tremendous job in getting people certified and getting people into these programs. Expanding upon the LPC and LPQ programs will not only continue to elevate the profession but work towards solving bigger problems. We want to help the industry and the professionals that make it work to grow as much as they can. We need to keep bringing people in, help them maximize their potential, and ensure the industry keeps quality employees. We need to bring different stakeholders into the conversation, focusing on how LP professionals can better engage with the criminal justice system, community nonprofits, schools, and so forth.
But I think there’s more to it than that. We’re helping to elevate people and I think we need to make an impact in different kinds of ways. We were doing a tremendous job before I got here, and of course, we need to keep that up. But we’re also creating new programs that help elevate other stakeholders to improve their knowledge and understanding of loss prevention issues. Look at the ORC programs we’re currently developing for law enforcement officers and district attorneys. This not only elevates the profession but helps solve bigger problems in our communities. We have terrific people in the industry, and we should leverage that talent the best way we can.
I’ve had the opportunity to speak to many of the LPF board members and solution providers and have had in- depth conversations with them regarding what they see and think. It’s fascinating to listen to the different ideas. Everybody wants to elevate the industry but in different ways, and there is so much we can do. In the end, we need to always ensure that we’re providing value, whether it’s for the students, the industry as a whole, or all the partners we serve across loss prevention and the wider community.
Allie: How do you feel your skill set translates into a role like this?
Caroline: I believe my ability to stay mission focused, especially considering we are a nonprofit and I have a strong nonprofit background, is crucial. I fully understand that our role is to support the industry, making decisions for the betterment of the people and the programs that keep the industry successful and moving forward. So much of what we do comes down to honesty and integrity. That mission must drive our objectives, our team, our board, and our members.
I also feel coming from a role that was heavily involved in teaching and educating people brings a certain experience to the table that not everyone has. I think the fact that I don’t have a traditional loss prevention resume, but rather a strong educational background, can be a plus by bringing a new perspective.
Some might say my downside is I’ve never been in a traditional senior leadership role in loss prevention. Others might argue that my upside is that I’ve never been in a traditional senior leadership role in loss prevention. I’m surrounded by subject matter experts that bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the table. With my background I bring a different perspective, and by effectively partnering my skills with those who do have that strong traditional LP background, I think we have a tremendous opportunity to create something special.
I’ve always felt that one of the most important things we do is get people to look at things differently. We can’t all have the exact same perspective. We can’t and don’t all look at things the exact same way. Bringing in a diversity of perspective is really important to everything we hope to accomplish. You have to be a forward thinker. If you’re stuck in your ways, this is not the place for you because the industry and the profession are ever-changing.
Allie: What does a strong team culture look like to you?
Caroline: Honesty, integrity, and collaboration are vital to a strong team culture. We must be positive, flexible, persistent, and remain mission-focused. A strong team culture comes when everyone’s voice is heard and valued and where decision making is a team effort but once a decision is made, everyone gets behind it and supports it—regardless of whether it was their first preference or not.
Allie: What do you think you will enjoy most about your new role and working so closely with the loss prevention community?
Caroline: The way the loss prevention community has come together for a common goal. It is all about bettering the industry—its people, its impact, its reputation, and uniting everyone behind a common goal of making the profession better in every way.
The LPF provides such great value and I’m so impressed by the quality education programs. That is our signature, and I’m excited by the impression it’s made on the profession. But it is also so much more. It’s amazing to see the impact and support we’ve built across the industry.
For example, at the recent conferences I spent time with both practitioners and solution provider partners that openly expressed how much value they were getting out of our partnerships and programs. I’ve also been reading the comments from those currently enrolled in the certifications and it’s amazing to hear so many that feel the need to communicate how effective and exciting they find the programs. I was blown away with the depth of appreciation for this organization and that’s something that I’m really going to enjoy.
Allie: Is there anything you would like to add?
Caroline: Just to say thank you to my many colleagues over the years, to the incredible AP leaders who have mentored and supported me, and to those who have and continue to challenge me and my ideas, because you either change my mind or give me the confidence to stay the course knowing I am on the right path.
Allie focuses on social media, daily e-newsletters, interviewing LP experts for magazine articles, and crafting email blasts. Prior to LPM, she was a digital content marketing intern for Tyler Technologies—the leading CAD software provider in the US—where she was awarded ‘Spotlight Intern’. Allie received her bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of Detroit Mercy in 2022, where she was awarded Communications Student of 2022. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org