We probably all know someone who pocketed a candy bar or a pack of gum from the local store when they were kids. They probably caught hell from their folks when they did. The truth is today shoplifting is far from a petty crime. In fact, it costs businesses nationwide billions and forces them to consider a business security system upgrade.
Sure, there are still the petty thieves that come in to pilfer what they can and these crimes can add up to some significant losses for businesses. According to the FBI, shoplifting rings are considered major organized crime. We’re talking about sophisticated groups of shoplifters, who case out stores just like banks. They come equipped with floor plans and special foil-lined bags that block the signals of security sensors.
They even have software that can create false receipts that are almost indistinguishable from the store’s actual register receipts. These gangs are lifting huge amounts of merchandise. FBI sources say that such organized boosters can easily make off with with $5,000 to $10,000 of products in a single day for their ringleaders. Part of the problem, according to loss prevention experts, is the ease with which goods can be “fenced” online, through eBay and similar sites.
Here in Massachusetts the problem is becoming so severe it’s been labeled “epidemic.” So much so that in January of this year, State Rep. David Linsky (D-Natick) proposed a bill to stiffen the penalties for organized shoplifters. In addition to changes in legislation and a crack down on the e-fencing problem, what’s a retailer to do? Beef up the company’s business security systems and loss prevention technologies for a start.
One of the most powerful tools available to retailers today is the ability to integrate security technologies. For example, video surveillance can be integrated with cash register locations so a visual record of every single transaction is recorded. Video surveillance can also be integrated with door security and burglar alarm systems, locking doors and preventing these organized shoplifters from leaving the store with merchandise.
Fully integrated electronic security measures could be the only way to prevent another growing threat to retail businesses—so-called “flash mob and rob” crimes—where “flash” attacks on a particular business are instigated and organized through social media sites. According to the Retail Industry Leaders Association, such “flash robs” are up 80% since 2010.
In addition to state-of-the art business security systems, even businesses with limited resources are reminded to heed these tips to help prevent losses due to shoplifting:
- Make sure all employees are trained to detect the behaviors of potential shoplifters. Local law enforcement would be happy to offer such training;
- Make sure that every customer leaves through an exit that is manned by a security guard, or monitored by an electronic sensor, whether they have made a purchase or not; and
- Remove clutter in the store that makes for blind spots.
Bottom line? Today’s retailers need to be aware that shoplifting is no longer child’s play.