Retail Best Practices: Preventing Retail Robbery and Internal Theft

There are many facets to robbery prevention, but often the most practical strategies are the most effective. For example, training employees to preemptively report suspicious activity to the authorities can be a strong robbery deterrence tactic. It’s important to remind employees to call the non-emergency police line to report suspicious activity, this can prevent crime from occurring not only at your location, but anywhere in the surrounding area. Hanging anti-loitering signs up can also be effective. But, according to Sapphire Risk Advisory Group Senior Director Tony Gallo, the former director of Loss Prevention and Safety for EZCorp and graduate of New Jersey City University with a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice degree, employee practices are the most effective robbery prevention tool.

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For starters, a digital IP-based surveillance system has the capability to basically eliminate the opportunities for internal theft. A great deal of employee theft takes place at the POS (Point-of-Sale). Dishonest employees will “pilfer the till” by making change and pocketing cash without ringing up the transactions, voiding transactions, and engaging in “sweethearting” which is industry terminology for under-charging or giving merchandise to friends and family. Even if a camera was placed at the POS, the employee took a calculated risk that the manager or owner would not take the time to scroll through thousands of hours of videotaped footage to find evidence of crooked behavior. With modern, digitally captured footage that is integrated with POS transaction data, owners, managers and security consultants now have the ability to search for and locate exceptions quickly instead of searching through hours of video. In many cases, once a digital IP-based surveillance system is installed and a short demo is given to employees, the dishonest ones will typically quit in a hasty fashion because they know the gig is up.

However, it is important to note that technology is not the be-all end-all of retail robbery prevention “Probably the most important thing in any retail location is good customer service. In my 30 years of experience, there is nothing that I have ever seen that beats good customer service. If you have a store where the employees are engaged and they approach other people when they come in, the employee is really doing two things. First, they engage that customer and they send a message to that customer that they have been recognized,” Gallo said. “A lot of times you’ll look at a convenience store and you’ll see that they have someone behind the counter, but when a customer walks in they’re not even acknowledged. I recommend even going one step further, to the point where an employee might say, ‘That’s a nice shirt you have on,’ or ‘I like that hat,’ or something like that. What you’re saying to that person is ‘I actually see you,’ and the last thing a burglar wants people to do is actually see them.”

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The last thing a convenience store owner needs are customers that feel invisible. When customers feel like they’re flying under the radar, it can encourage theft. “Instead of that person feeling like they’re invisible when they come in to the store and thinking they could shoplift or rob you,” Gallo said. “If you acknowledge them, now they know they have been recognized.”

Charles Sennewald, a published author of numerous respected security books and graduate of the US Army’s Military Police School, has spent a lifetime in the security profession. In 2015, he was awarded the “President’s Award” by the American Society for Information Science and he too holds employee practices in high regard when it comes to robbery prevention. Robbery prevention includes internal theft and it is a real problem for convenience store owners. While there is no way to completely eliminate it as a problem, Sennewald has some suggestions to prevent it.

“You’ve got to set rules and enforce the rules. We don’t live in a perfect society, so treat your employees well,” Sennewald said. “I’ve found that people will follow rules and respect rules if the rules are properly enforced.”

With modern, digital IP-based surveillance systems along with a well-developed set of employee guidelines in place, there is no doubt that the the risk of robbery and internal thefts will be significantly decreased.


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