Multiple retail organizations are reporting an increase in violent robbery and parking lot crime against them. Four localized anti-violence summits have been organized in Jacksonville FL, Houston TX, and Baltimore MD, in the past three years to help retail organizations organize counter-violence research and actions. With participants from multiple law enforcement agencies, retail organizations, and solution providers, we were able to provide some recommendations and innovative ideas by the participants on violent crime prevention. This article summarizes the key learnings and takeaways about violent crime prevention from the summits.
Retail Initiatives Layered in Zones of Influence
Leveraging the Loss Prevention Research Council’s (LPRC’s) five zones of influence framework, many retailers implement solutions at each layer of the zones to reduce opportunities or incentives for violence. This post outlines some solutions that were been adopted by retailers to illustrate the current innovations toward violent crime mitigation
Zone 5: Social Media
Social media monitoring and tracking has enabled retailers to become aware of the threat before a potential incident happens and identify the bad actors after an incident has occurred.
Zone 4: Parking Lot
Crime prevention through environmental designs (CPTED) is often a strategy employed by retailers when examining the weakness and opportunity within the current crime mitigation strategy and investigating parking lot designs that can influence offender decisions that precede criminal acts. CPTED may include:
1. Territorial reinforcement using trees, shrubs, and fences to help define a space into private areas. However, trees and shrubs should be carefully managed and maintained to ensure parking lot visibility.
2. Landscaping through adding speed bumps, increase cleanliness and visibility of parking space demarcation.
3. Proper lighting to create a welcoming feel to an area and thwart criminal activity.
4. Increase presence of security cameras and security officers if applicable.
5. Proper design and placement of signage.
In addition, some retailers are using anti-loitering technologies to create an adverse environment for loiterers and panhandlers in order to mitigate the potential negative effects brought by their presence. Technologies such as mosquito devices and classical music background noise are frequently adopted by retail stores to drive dismiss vagrancy. License plate recognition and mobile trailer platform (tower) are also used to increase overall awareness and identify suspicious parking lot activities.
Zone 3: Store Interiors
New technologies deployed by retailers within zone 3 to mitigate the risk of violent crimes include mac address sensors, forensic DNA mists, facial recognition, and enhanced entry PVM for suspect recognition and identification. Innovative counter-jump solutions can be effective in deterring pharmacy robbery and in mitigating effects from would-be violent offenders.
Zone 2: Immediate Area of the Asset
Time delay safes and cash drops are two solutions in zone 2 that can decrease the reward for offenders. Retailers are constantly deploying enhanced versions of these technologies to increase situational awareness in order to decrease incentives of a robbery attempt.
Zone 1: Asset
GPS trackers are often being applied covertly on assets such as cash, phones, cigarettes and other highly sought-after products to identify suspect’s location after a robbery incident.
Moreover, signage throughout the five zones may heighten offender awareness of the barriers to their violent attempts.
It is important to note that there is not a one-size fits-all approach to violent crime prevention. Security features should be dependent on the vulnerability of locations to crime, and design features should matched with risk level of the stores.
When facing life- and safety-threatening issues such as robbery or other violent crimes, some retailers called for the need to collaborate and create a platform to share real-time crime intelligence and event data such that when a store is impacted by a robbery event, the store can send immediate alerts to its neighboring stores and empower them to prepare against potential spillovers. However, some retailers raised concerns with this strategy due to data privacy issues, which will likely inhibit instant intelligence sharing among multiple retailers.
Law Enforcement Recommendations for Violent Crime Prevention
Meeting with law enforcement agencies from local, state, and federal offices and the state attorney’s office has brought insightful recommendations for retailers to help them deter, identify, and prosecute violent offenders. Recommendations include:
- Robbery video retention is paramount for prosecution. Retailers should preserve a copy of videos from the robbery incident even after they have been submitted to law enforcement. Many times, the videos will be lost or corrupted during the transition from one agency to another, and retailers will be required to resubmit them.
- Social media can often empower retailers and law enforcement agencies to identify suspect(s) of a crime with one requirement: a high-quality image of the offender. With this in hand, law enforcement can quickly identify the suspect(s).
- Rapid data/information transmission on the robbery incident can reduce law enforcement’s time investment on the case.
- Relevant information, such as employee information for personnel who are involved in the robbery, needs to be recorded and updated. When a case gets charged, prosecutors will subpoena the victim(s) to testify. Employee data retention is the best way to make sure the law enforcement can get in touch with the victim swiftly.
- Training on de-escalation tactics is highly encouraged by the law enforcement to ensure the safety of customers and employees and prevent potential conflicts with the violent offender(s) during a robbery.
The LPRC will continue to facilitate additional localized anti-violence summits in high-crime metropolitan areas across the country and adjust violent crime mitigation strategies base on lessons learned from all parties impacted and results from our research.