In Part 1 of this article on clothing security I was dealing with issues I read in an online story about a $20 million theft ring that was broken up by authorities. The story by Chris Morran, posted on 9/7/17, “Feds Break Up $20M Shoplifting Ring That Stole Clothing From Coast To Coast” https://consumerist.com/2017/09/07/feds-break-up-20m-shoplifting-ring-that-stole-clothing-from-coast-to-coast/ discussed the methods used by the group to get away with such an extensive crime spree. In part 1 I started to discuss the methods the group employed and as a former Loss Prevention Manager, my tips on how retailers can combat these predators. While my suggestions can be used by any retailer, they are really geared to the small and medium sized stores which in all likelihood do not have the ability to hire as many associates as national chains stores. One thing that is a must in combating these criminals and ALL stores can afford is to use Checkpoint tags and electronic article surveillance towers.
I am sure I got the attention of some who are reading this and have no idea what Checkpoint tags are or what an electronic article surveillance (EAS) tower is. The tags are clothing security devices that deter and prevent shoplifting. The devices are two-piece designs of tested, hard plastic materiel that pin and clip together onto a piece of clothing. The tags require a special removal tool in order to get them off of a garment and most stores keep these tools secured at their cash registers. Without the use of the tool products are torn and damaged when a shoplifter attempts to forcibly remove them. Of course, once damaged the merchandise is useless. The tag itself is not the only protection provided when applied to garments. Checkpoint tags also operate using EAS technology and they emit a signal on a specific radio frequency. When tagged goods are carried in the detection field of EAS towers the towers activate a blaring alarm and flashing lights. Employees immediately respond to the alarm and conduct receipt checks and the offender can either relinquish the item or purchase it. In many situations a tower alarm scares a shoplifter and they will simply drop the merchandise they were trying to steal and run.
In Part 1 I talked about the use of “blockers” as a tactic this group employed and how they could be thwarted with a small staff. Other points the author made mentioned that the group would send someone into a store in advance to move merchandise to a location that would make theft easier. This person would set up the products and another person(s) would go in a commit the crime. Store managers; train your employees to look for merchandise that seems “out of place” and perhaps in an area of the store that is off the main track. It is possible it is being set up for a theft. All employees should be made aware of what was found and then the merchandise should be put back in the proper location. Later, you may have an employee walk up on a person who is clearly looking around that area trying to find the items you put back. Customer service them to death, get a good description and pass that information to the entire store team. If you have a camera system, retrieve a picture from it and keep it in an off-stage area or breakroom so employees can see it and be aware.
Another tactic that this Organized Theft Ring employed was the use of “booster bags”. These are foil- lined bags intended to defeat EAS systems by disrupting the radio signal sent out by the clothing security tags. They aren’t fool-proof and should not scare you. Booster bags are often a brown bag with a handle or some type of large gift bag. Criminals like these because they can fold them up and pull them out once in a store. Teach employees to watch for shoppers carrying gift bags through the store or bags from stores other than yours. Someone who brings an item in to try to match it to your merchandise will be happy to show you what they have. The other thing you can do is purchase a Checkpoint tower that has software designed to detect foils when a bag is brought into the store. A quick aside, Organized Theft Rings (ORC’s) are professional shoplifters with an established hierarchy. These groups send workers out with specific “shopping” lists to steal, paying a small percentage of the value of the goods to the worker. The leaders turn around and resell the merchandise, undercutting legitimate businesses.
ORC groups don’t have to be a threat to your store. Using Checkpoint tags and towers and training employees on how to identify and prevent theft can keep your business profitable. You have the ability to defeat these criminals.
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