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Loss Prevention Issues in Recent Research

Academics who examine crime and security-related issues aren’t always seeking practical solutions, but some recent research studies have pragmatic applications and impart some actionable advice on relevant loss prevention issues. Below are questions that researchers have recently looked at and what loss prevention should know about what they found.

1. Does providing a financial incentive for reporting workplace theft, such as a percentage of the recovered loss or a cash reward, increase employee reporting? A research project out of the University of Texas suggests that incentives can be beneficial, but that it seems to be limited to work environments where job satisfaction is low. Financial rewards probably have less or a negligible impact on reporting among workers with high job satisfaction and at businesses with robust pre-employment screening programs, according to the study, “Comparing Risk Reducing and Incentive Bases Reporting in a Small Business.”

2. Is it only violent acts or does the mere fear of violence have an impact on client-facing staff? Perception matters, according to a study in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, “Consequences of client-initiated workplace violence: The role of fear and perceived prevention.” Fear levels—based on workers’ perception of violence and how well they think they can cope with client-initiated violence and threats—have negative personal and organizational consequences, including turnover, the study concluded.

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3. Do shoplifters consider the design layout or just security techniques as they walk the store? Both expert and novice shoplifters consider both, according to a study that put shoplifters in an actual department store and then gathered their thoughts on the deterrents they recognized. The most commonly cited deterrents by both expert and novice participants were formal surveillance, product positioning, employee positioning, access control, and store layout.

“This supports previous research that found shoplifters considered both design and security techniques,” concluded the study, “Advancing Retail Security Design: Uncovering Shoplifter Perceptions of the Physical Environment,” published in the Journal of Interior Design. “All shoplifters focused attention on the physical layout of the store and security devices and typically remarked that the best deterrents combined multiple strategies for preventing theft.”

4. Do stores in neighborhoods that are in good order benefit from more aggressive interventions by neighbors? A researcher walked up and down streets of a medium-sized coastal city in the northeastern United States to test whether individuals took notice of her observing their properties or went further and confronted her or called police. The experiment was designed to test if environmental factors, such as property maintenance issues like broken lights, trash, and graffiti, have an impact on “guardianship intensity.” That is, would casual observers be more likely to actively intercede to discourage crime in orderly neighborhoods?

Ultimately, the study found “a weak but significant direct relationship between the guardianship level and the image/maintenance of the property.”

More significant, however, was the relationship between guardianship level and opportunities for surveillance. That is, the study showed that guardianship intensity is lower when physical features obstruct property windows from public space. The experiment also showed that individuals don’t need to be actively looking for trouble to provide a crime deterrent. “Previous statements that it is the mere presence of guardians who could be watching and could observe untoward behaviors are supported by this research,” according to the study published in Security Journal, “What makes a guardian capable? A test of guardianship in action.”

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5. Do body cameras impact behavior in a way that makes lawsuits less likely? Lawsuits are one of the more prevalent loss prevention issues for today’s LP executives, so it’s worth noting that researchers have found that when police officers wear body cameras use of force is cut in half, which translates into fewer public complaints. The experiment, written up in Journal of Quantitative Criminology, was the first to test the effect of wearable video cameras on officer compliance rates and citizen complaints, “The Effect of Police Body-Worn Cameras on Use of Force and Citizens’ Complaints Against the Police: A Randomized Controlled Trial.”

Over 12 months, the researchers from University of Cambridge’s Institute of Criminology randomly-assigned Rialto, Calif., police officers to “experimental shifts” during which they were equipped with body-worn HD cameras and “control” shifts, in which officers did not wear cameras. “We found that the likelihood of force being used in control (non-camera) conditions were roughly twice those in experimental (body camera) conditions,” according to the study. “The number of complaints filed against officers dropped from 0.7 complaints per 1,000 contacts to 0.07 per 1,000 contacts.”

This post was originally published in 2017 and was updated August 6, 2018.

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