To Prosecute Or Not – The Ball’s In Your Court

Does it matter whether you prosecute shoplifters? There are some retailers that will not prosecute a shoplifter if they catch them. Many retailers discourage their employees from following someone outside to get a vehicle description or license plate number even if they know someone stole from the store. Then there are the retailers that will allow managers to approach someone who is suspected of shoplifting. What is the best approach to addressing theft? Have you thought about why or how you approach the issue of theft?x

Why would a retailer catch a shoplifter but then not prosecute them for the crime? There are several reasons a store owner may choose not to charge a shoplifter if they do catch them. 

  • When a shoplifter is caught and sent to jail or in some cases a citation to appear may be presented, the store manager or person who caught the shoplifter has to go to court. This can be a time-consuming prospect. There are jurisdictions where the person who filed a complaint or prosecuted a shoplifter will be prosecuted themselves if they fail to appear in court for a case. 
  • Some store owners will use the promise of not prosecuting a crook if the merchandise is returned. The owner is more interested in getting their product back than what happens to the thief.
  • There are managers who do not prosecute because they feel badly for the shoplifter. They believe that consideration of the person’s circumstances is an appropriate response to an offender. For example a person may say they shoplifted food because they are hungry or they stole clothes because they are homeless or needed them and could not afford to purchase them.
  • There are situations when a store manager takes age into consideration. The apprehended party may be (or claims to be) a juvenile giving an age that falls into that state’s age bracket for juveniles. The manager may feel they are doing a favor by not marring the youth’s future opportunities with a criminal record. A manager may also feel sympathy for an elderly person because of advanced age or possible mental deterioration.

Each of these decisions has some merit on their own. There is nothing wrong with feeling badly for a person or their circumstances. There can be some ramifications that result from releasing someone who has been caught shoplifting if you are not careful. 

     Consider what happens if you decide not to prosecute someone and they leave your store after you have detained them and they were to be injured. I am always especially cautious when the party is identified as a juvenile. Anytime you are dealing with a child you have to be careful. If you choose not to contact the police after stopping someone, even if you retrieve your merchandise what proof do you have that you recovered anything from that person? Is there a chance you could be falsely accused of unlawfully detaining that person? Even if you do recover merchandise and no issue transpires, without a police officer being present to hear you tell the person not to return there is no documentation of the incident. Nothing prevents that shoplifter from returning to your store again. 

     Catching and prosecuting shoplifters does carry its own risks and headaches. Sometimes there are just no easy solutions. One thing you have to be very cautious of is inconsistency. If you prosecute one person and not another person are you at risk of being sued for discrimination? Could someone say you gave preferential treatment based on age, race, gender or any other factor because it was learned you previously allowed a break to other people?

     If you are going to allow managers to stop people for shoplifting it is crucial that they have received quality training on how to do so safely and consistently. Be certain not to allow any behavior that would endanger your employees and do stress that they are allowed to make decisions based on how they feel about their own safety. If they believe a shopper is stealing but the person’s behavior is threatening or intimidating in some manner trust your managers to back off or if it is serious enough to contact police. 

     No one can tell you the best approach to dealing with shoplifters. Ultimately it is your decision to make. What I can say is that a store with a focus on customer service and a strong retail anti-theft strategy can deter the vast majority of shoplifting and eliminate the need for prosecuting shoplifters because they will leave the store empty-handed.  

Can Technology End Shoplifting?

Shoplifting prevention has for many years been done with the help of technology.  From CCTV cameras that offer the loss prevention team clear pictures of the perpetrator, to radio frequency tags (RF tags) that are placed on high value items in the store and set alarm systems off if carried outside without paying. Now, stores can use facial recognition technology to help alleviate some of the shoplifting burden the loss prevention team faces every single day.

But, regardless of the technology a store uses, it is imperative for the owner or management of the store to inform their employees of the policies and procedures the store has in place regarding shoplifting.  Death, lawsuits and bodily harm has occurred to countless of employees because they do not know, or do not adhere to the policies the store has in place regarding on how to approach a suspected shoplifter.  Safety is paramount to the well being of employees, customers and the suspected shoplifter.

To read more about other topics about shoplifting, follow the links below.

Why hasn’t security technology put an end to shoplifting?

As the UK crime rate falls, there is one crime that is on the rise. Recent figures show that shoplifting has consistently grown by an annual 6% against a wider backdrop of reduced crime. This statistic is surprising considering the vast amount of time, money and effort that goes into developing anti-shoplifting technology. So why isn’t it working?

How does anti-shoplifting technology work?

The vast majority of retail stores are equipped with several high tech security measures. CCTV cameras are the most common. According to the College of Policing, CCTV is more effective as a method of gaining evidence to catch and convict a criminal than as a deterrent.

Many security camera providers provide monitoring services to ensure footage is captured and analysed as efficiently as possible. However, surveillance systems require careful planning; Banham Group, security experts with more than 90 years’ industry experience, advise that CCTV installation must include guidance, particularly on data protection laws and system legalities.

Loss Prevention Software and Data Analysis

The latest loss prevention software technology will help LP pros aggregate and analyze data into actionable information.

Data analysis is all about answering questions. To properly develop the questions, you must first identify your enterprise’s opportunities to increase profitability. Second, you need to identify the specific data needed to answer these questions. Finally, you must determine the tools and loss prevention software resources you can use to turn that data into actionable information to resolve the opportunities.

Develop the Questions. Increase in profitability is always the goal of any enterprise. Opportunities reside in breaking up organized retail crime (ORC) rings that are having a heavy impact on shrinkage and item availability across your business. Improving safety protocols to reduce internal and external injury claims would avoid payouts. Upgrading loss prevention software to improve workforce efficiency and productivity would result in reductions to labor cost centers. How do you resolve these opportunities? The specific questions can be limitless, but the answers are almost always contained in your data.

Manager loses job after video shows him choking woman

The manager of a west Charlotte beauty supply store has been terminated after cellphone video surfaced showing him kicking and choking a woman.

Sung Ho Lim was the manager of Missha Beauty. He said this all started when the woman in the video, who has not been identified, was confronted about stealing.

In the video, you can hear the woman tell Lim, “Check my bag. I don’t have anything.”

You then see the two shove each other, at which point Lim said, “You hit me.”

Moments later, Lim kicks the woman, knocks her to the ground and puts her in a choke hold. WBTV showed Lim the video, and he confirmed it is him, but he also said the part when she stole an item is not captured by this video.

“This is my fault,” Lim said. “I have to take the whole video and give it to the police.” Lim’s niece told WBTV that her uncle offered to quit his job, in the hope of taking a positive step to help the store.

He also agreed to meet the woman and apologize, but at last check, an initial meeting was delayed.

Employees told WBTV store surveillance video has been given to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.

Are You Ready To Catch A Shoplifter?

Big retail stores across the nation rely primarily in technology to prevent shoplifting according to industry analysts.  The physical loss prevention officers of long ago, are quickly being replaced by technology in the stores.  The interpretation and study of the data obtained fighting shoplifting and employee theft are invaluable during these times. 

While smaller stores rely on locking freezers to protect their merchandise, that is not feasible for most other stores. Smaller stores need to understand the problem, and find a  solution that is reasonable for them.

For more about this and other stories, follow the links below.

Retailer forced to use bike lock on chillers to prevent shoplifting

A Coventry convenience retailer has been forced to fit a bicycle chain lock on his chiller doors to prevent shoplifting after it cost him £12,000 last year.

Paul Cheema, owner of Malcolm’s Store, said as well as the bike lock, he had put bells on the chillers. He said the store had been targeted by gangs stealing large amounts of meat and cheese.

Speaking to Radio 4’s You and Yours, Cheema said: “One man took 32 packs of bacon and 20 packs of cheese. We put bicycle chains and doorbells on our fridges so every time a door opens an alarm sounds.”

He added that he was using social media to post pictures of suspects.

Eyes open: Catching shoplifters takes vigilance, prevention

When a retailer sees someone suspicious wandering the aisles, they can’t just call police.

Acting shady in a store isn’t illegal. Neither is putting an item in your pocket.

Under North Dakota law, an item must be taken past the last point of sale before it is considered stolen.

Jerry Cox, a regional manager for Valley Dairy in Grand Forks, said employees at their nine area convenience stores are trained to watch for shoplifters.

Often, he said, a shoplifter will pocket some items and purchase others. If an employee sees someone tuck something away between the aisles, they have to give the person every chance to pay. The clerk often will ask if there’s anything else they want.

“You have to assume they’re honest,” Cox said.

Using technology in today’s loss prevention career environment

“You don’t have to be an IT guy to understand cyber security, and it’s critical that you have enough of an understanding to know what questions to ask”

As an adjunct professor for AMU’s Center for Applied Learning, Dr. Robert Pittman imparts wisdom to next-generation loss prevention leaders, for whom he has the following warning—you can never “complete” your education. The world, risks, and business are always changing and loss prevention practitioners, and the loss prevention industry as a whole, must continually adapt. If not, individuals will find their career paths limited and the industry itself—just now gaining a seat at the management table—could be pushed to the background.

Today’s major retail operations are driven by technology, and entire supply chains rely on how effectively it is managed. Loss prevention practitioners need to have the skills to effectively navigate this tech-based environment if they want to advance their careers and help the LP industry thrive, Pittman believes. “Loss prevention used to be about focusing on the shoplifter in the store, but that’s completely changed. Those strictly physical security guys are quickly becoming extinct,” he said.