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The Problem with Sentences

Here are two sentences I have a problem with: “Higher rates of incarceration do not immediately lead to reductions in crime” and “While this issue of retail crime runs its course, the level of credence among retailers, trade associations, lawmakers, and customers is a delicate one.”

Sentences like these are why we have a problem. Both sentences were uttered by a reporter during a CNBC podcast in March of this year. Neither one is completely accurate. How would a member of the public with no knowledge of the deeper problem sort this out? Someone could listen to this report and take it at its face—it’s very heavily edited face—and think it’s gospel. I hope not.

Obviously, higher rates of incarceration do not immediately lead to reductions in crime. Any policy change takes time to impact society, especially one as complicated as crime. It’s unreasonable to expect that positive initiatives like the INFORM Act will have an impact on crime statistics within a short timeframe. Endemic problems take time and a holistic approach. Crime statistics are a lagging indicator, and they are complicated. In this special issue of LP Magazine focused on organized retail crime (ORC), Cory Lowe, PhD from the Loss Prevention Research Council helps us sort through and make sense of the data and understand why some is lacking.

What I really have a problem with in the second sentence from the reporter is the part “While this issue of retail crime runs its course…” This statement sounds passive, like waiting for a flu bug or chicken pox to finish up, break the fever, and move on. We cannot treat this increasing ORC trend (retailers know it’s a true trend) as a virus that will leave on its own. It needs proactive treatment because it has been growing over decades—and it’s not going to cure itself.

- Digital Partner -

Just when it seemed like the gloves were finally coming off against ORC, the media and other ancillary parties jumped in and now we have some muddy water. Retailers and their employees are tired of being victimized and exhausted from the daily stress of rampant theft and violence and have started to be vocal about it. Retail associations are building consensus and working to communicate and partner with district attorneys and legislators. Most importantly, the public has finally started to catch on. To keep the conversation moving, retailers must find a way to communicate consistently to the media—and the public—what’s really happening.

With the media’s insatiable need for new stories, we’ve already begun to see a narrative around retailers inflating their loss numbers to support rising prices or new technology. Those who work in the field and see the empty shelves, violence, and proliferation of online marketplaces know that this is not the case.

In Jacque Brittain’s article reviewing LPM’s Violence in the Retail Workplace Survey, there are startling reminders of how difficult it is to be on the frontlines. Our frontline associates are becoming numb to the constant violence, as the survey reflected. They feel safe in their workplace, yet the incidence of violence is increasing. One only has to read through the comments in the survey to see just how serious the problem is.

As an industry, we know that uniting against ORC and consistent messaging are two parts of a larger solution to a complicated problem. Loss prevention and asset protection professionals have grit and determination, and we certainly won’t let things like poorly worded sentences get in the way of what we know needs to be done.

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