It’s complicated. We don’t want to overplay our hand here, but the role and responsibility of today’s asset protection professionals is increasingly complex, and mission critical, to their organizations. Think about it: LP is protecting globally traveling people, extensive supply chains, hundreds or thousands of stores, distribution centers and offices, websites, 24/7 data interchange, and the brand’s reputation. We might rightly describe our evolving function as multidomain loss prevention/asset protection (LP).
For our LP teams to maintain their well-deserved status as problem solvers, we must continue to learn and understand evolving multidomain dynamics and threats in order to focus and significantly improve operations and outcomes across the entire range of protective activity.
The key to deterring or defeating errors, accidents, and intentional theft, fraud, or attacks rests in LP’s ability to simultaneously operate through and across all domains, all the time. LP must present differing types of offenders with multiple dilemmas for which they have no immediate answers and no way to predict what will happen next.
Our digital and physical adversaries are making significant progress leveraging deception, crews, and violence to exploit weaknesses across our domains. And our current and incoming LP professionals need the savvy and skills to proactively and simultaneously deter, disrupt, and detain offenders across the multidomain retail enterprise. Our goal is supporting our organizations by making people and places safer and more secure.
We focus on ensuring what our customers want to buy is on the shelf or in-stock when they want it by securing increasingly convenient checkout and by creating a safer, 24/7 place to work and shop. If one or more of these things don’t happen, our retail companies fail with our shoppers.
Herd or Group Immunity
Another initiative our team is working on is to describe and test the group or herd-immunity concept. Herd immunity is indirect protection of most people or places from infectious disease (or in our case people and process errors, and crime attempts) that occurs when a large percentage of a population has become resistant or even immune to an infection or other problem, thereby providing a measure of protection for individuals who are not so well protected or resistant.
In medicine, in a population in which many or most individuals are immune, chains of infection are likely to be disrupted, which stops or slows the spread of disease. A key concept here: the greater the proportion of individuals in a community who are resistant, the smaller the probability that those who are not immune will meet an infectious person.
In our case, we’re preparing to test this hypothesis by examining if the more store locations that are effectively treated with a benefit denial process where protected high-loss items don’t function until activated upon licit purchase, the better the system works overall (even lower losses after expanding coverage to other retailers). Likewise, do untreated similar and close-by items and stores receive what Dr. Ron Clarke describes as diffusion of benefit or halo effect because offenders wrongly assume untreated sites are treated.
We’re excited to see if our research discovers ways to do more with less while also informing better cross-retailer collaboration to help all participants better protect their people and places.
LPRC Research in Action
Our team is focused on working with our retailer and solution partners to minimize crime and loss-control problems. Whatever we do should affect perpetrators’ decisions, but it should not unduly affect our shoppers or employee teams. We strive to do no harm. This issue’s Loss Prevention Research Council (LPRC) study is one of many that examine how shoppers/customers notice and respond to protective treatments. To accomplish this, the LPRC research team conducted a series of intercept interviews with store customers to obtain their perceptions of enhanced public-view monitor (ePVM) interventions in merchandise category areas. The full report of this, other similar research, and over 350 additional research briefs is in the LPRC Knowledge Center for download by member supporters.
The purpose of the customer interviews was to better understand their awareness of each intervention; reaction to the interventions; interest in having select anti-theft interventions so that high-theft products can be maintained in open displays (rather than kept locked or behind the counter); the impact of the interventions on willingness to purchase products; and the impact of the interventions on their overall perceptions of personal safety in the store.
Results: Customer Interviews on PVM and ePVM Treatments
The following sections present detailed results of twenty-four interviews (twelve for each intervention) conducted with customers on site at a location featuring a public-view monitor (PVM) and an enhanced public-view monitor (ePVM).
The first question in the customer survey asked twenty-four customers what security measures they noticed in the health and beauty aids area. Overall, nearly all (N=22, 91.7%) of interviewed customers mentioned the ePVM. The small e denotes public-view monitors enhanced to help offenders better notice, recognize, and change their behavior (see, get, fear). Enhancements include positioning, signage, lighting, and sounds.
Customers who did not notice the monitor were shown the security measure, and all customers were asked for their immediate reactions to the PVM or ePVM. The table here shows some of the shoppers’ broadly grouped question responses.
Generally, respondents offered positive or neutral initial remarks about the PVM. Many noted the theft-deterrent benefits of the monitors, and a few indicated the monitors make them feel like the store is doing something about shoplifting.
The small number of negative reactions to the monitors relate to respondents feeling nervous or worried about being watched while shopping. Surveillance concerns typically dissipated when participants were offered a choice of the ePVM’s presence, allowing self-selection versus needing an employee to unlock an item for them.
More than three-fifths (62.5%) of the customers interviewed said they do believe there is someone in another location in the store watching the video footage from the monitor. One-sixth (16.7%) of the customers we interviewed do not believe anyone in the store is watching the video footage from the monitor, while about one-fifth (20.8%) said they “don’t know” if someone is watching the video footage.
Customer Preference for Monitors or Locked Displays
To follow up on addressing any negative shopper concerns, customers were next read the following statement: “Use of public-view monitors as a security measure allows the store to make the product available to you on the shelf, rather than keeping it behind a counter or in a locked display that requires you to ask for employee assistance to access the product.” Customers were then asked if they prefer this type of security measure to keeping products behind a counter or in a locked display case. The results are presented below.
More than four-fifths of the customers interviewed (83.3%) said they prefer ePVMs to having products behind a counter or in a locked display. Just one of the interviewed customers said they do not prefer this security measure to keeping products behind a counter or in a locked display, and three respondents said they “don’t know” which they prefer.
This project summary addresses four of multiple research questions from ongoing projects designed to help retailers dial-in their solutions to provide robust protection by deterring and disrupting offenders as they ideate, initiate, and progress their crimes while not interfering with shopper experience and purchasing. The full report is in the LPRC Knowledge Center at lpresearch.org.
2018 Impact Conference
Every year for over fifteen years, retailers and LPRC staff have joined together to plan and execute an annual gathering to discuss recent and practical theft, fraud, and violence-control research. The meeting has grown from almost 100 to over 350 participants. And it has changed from several featured sessions or speakers to multiple shorter, interactive Learning Lab breakouts to explore over two dozen new projects findings, poster reviews, and other exciting experiences.
Participating retailers keep voting to have the University of Florida (UF) host the conference to explore the ever-changing LPRC Innovation Lab and to enjoy interacting with UF faculty and students in a beautiful top-ten public university environment.
We invite you to consider participating in this year’s LPRC Impact held October 1–3 in Gainesville. Visit lpresearch.org to learn more and register.
Handbook of Crime Prevention and Community Safety (2nd edition) edited by Nick Tilley and Aiden Sidebottom and published by Routledge (a Taylor & Francis Group imprint) in New York, NY. This compilation of research articles is valuable to researchers and practitioners alike. It is a powerful primer with several criminologists laying out how to apply opportunity and environmental crime-control theories to real-world problems.