Sponsored by Turning Point Justice
A teenager with more than $100 in hand nonetheless pockets an $18 audio cable. Stopped by the store’s loss prevention agent he says he doesn’t know why he did it. That he’s never done anything like it before. Police could come and take the young man to jail, likely spending three hours processing the case, but the retailer is a participant in the Crime Accountability (CA) Partnership Program, which offers the teen a different option. He stays out of the court system by agreeing to pay back the retailer for the harm caused as a result of the incident and footing the bill to participate in an education program administered by the National Association of Shoplifting Prevention (NASP).
This type of diversion program, often offered though the courts, is extended pre-charge via the CA Partnership Program, a joint effort of NASP and Turning Point Justice, a technology company that provides the platform for processing offenders. The first-time offenders who stay out of the criminal justice system are its most obvious beneficiaries. “The program focuses on the person, and gets at the root of why he or she shoplifted,” said Barbara Staib, director of communications for NASP.
Most eligible offenders recognize its value. The offender watches a video describing the CA Partnership Program at the time of apprehension but then goes home to make an informed, deliberate and voluntary decision whether to participate. To date, more than nine out of ten of individuals who have qualified for the program have chosen to enroll. If they fail to enroll, “it’s reported back to the criminal justice system in the same way it would have been on the day of apprehension,” explained Staib. But for the 80 percent that do follow through, the CA Partnership Program can be life changing. “It provides an opportunity to a person to make a mistake and not have it dog them for the rest of their lives,” said Staib. Offenders who have undergone the education program often describe its transformative nature. “I feel that I am able to walk away a better person and more aware of everything shoplifting means and the results that occur from it all,” said one program participant from Tampa, Florida. “My future is something that should not be toyed with [and] I will never repeat this act ever again in my life.”
Although perhaps less obvious, there are also tangible benefits to the community when retailers participate in the CA Partnership Program. In a recent study by a law enforcement agency in Texas, the program was identified as having the potential to reduce the number of calls to law enforcement and allowing resources to be focused on more serious crimes. “The CA Partnership Program has contributed to a 51 percent reduction in calls for service related to retail stores that are currently working with the program,” according to the report titled Shoplifting Study from the Harris Country Sheriff’s Office Strategic (HCSO) Planning and Policy Unit (March 16, 2015). It concluded: “The implementation of CAP for shoplifting may save significant resources for HCSO [and] will allow HCSO to better serve Harris County through improved offender accountability, more efficient jail population management and increased public safety without increase in public costs.”
But what’s in it for retailers? The value to retailers may be least evident but they may have the most to gain by joining the CA Partnership Program. “The program takes the best of restorative justice principles and extends it pre-charge so that it provides a value to retailers,” explained Staib.
Retailers get reimbursed by the offender at a fair value but don’t lose the ability to handle the case through the courts or civilly if participants don’t follow through (overall collection has gone up among participating retailers). They enhance their relationship with local law enforcement by reducing calls for service. And they get a technology platform—at no cost—to manage cases, develop case reports, identify legitimate first offenders, ensure company policies are correctly applied enterprisewide, allow LP agents to complete cases more quickly, and guarantee that each case, wherever it occurs, is managed in accordance with state law. As an added bonus, there is even the fact that some research has shown that shoplifters offered diversion are more likely to become loyal customers of that retailer.
Additionally, the voluntary nature of the program helps to reduce a retailer’s risk of a lawsuit arising from a small-value shoplifting case, as does reducing the amount of time that a store holds an individual. The system helps a retailer correctly identify an individual as a petty offender and qualifies them for the program in 20 to 25 minutes, according to Paul Jones, chief operating officer for Turning Point and former executive director of global asset protection for eBay. Rapid processing offers a clear advantage over holding suspects for an extended time while waiting for police to arrive. “The longer you hold people, the greater the safety risk,” noted Jones. The saved man hours also boosts the productivity of LP agents, freeing them to return to work on issues that are more material to the company’s bottom line than $2 shoplifting cases.
Some benefits cross over between participants. For example, the Turning Point platform that retailers use to process offenders creates a single, sharable, prosecutable report of the incident. The program includes a NASP-managed Indigence Fund that also pays the course fee for qualified individuals who can’t afford to enroll in the education program, thus shielding all partners from criticism that the program charges unjust fees to participants. This is particularly beneficial to retailers by ensuring the partnership will only enhance their reputation. Finally, providing low-risk offenders a different path than the one hard core thieves travel effectively prevents future crime, a benefit to the community and victim retailers alike. “The research says that if you take low-risk offenders and apply the punishment that everyone else gets, you’re going to make them worse. The chance of reoffending skyrockets,” warns Joanne Katz, a professor at Missouri Western State University.
The driving force behind the CA Partnership Program’s success is the marriage between NASP, which has a long tradition of providing quality anti-shoplifting education, and Turning Point, an advanced technology company with loss prevention expertise. According to the Harris Country Sheriff’s study, “NASP education programs for both adult and juvenile offenders are by far the most effective shoplifting deterring programs that maintains the lowest national recidivism rates of 2.9 percent.” NASP is ‘vendor phobic,’ according to Staib, but saw a unique opportunity in forming a partnership with Turning Point. “Their cutting-edge technology was developed from a prosecutor’s point of view, in conjunction with industry pros representing 100 years of LP experience.”
Walmart is one of the retailers beginning to experience value from that partnership. The company recently completed a pilot of the Crime
Accountability Partnership Program at select stores and plans to expand it to more than 500 stores over the next few months. Pilot stores have reduced recidivism, saved man hours processing offenders, and “dramatically improved” their relationship with local law enforcement, according to Paul Jaeckle (shown at right), the company’s senior director for asset protection. But it has not meant letting offenders off the hook. “Law enforcement is not the only way to hold people accountable,” said Jaeckle. Educating first offenders, changing their behavior, and deterring future crime “is another way to gain control.”