While statistics show that most types of property crime are decreasing, one important (and costly) sector — organized retail crime (ORC) — continues to rise across the country, according to the National Retail Federation. Retailers are actively seeking enhanced security technologies to mitigate risks and prevent theft before it happens.
In-store measures like increased security presence and surveillance can be helpful, but law enforcement and security personnel should focus on preventing theft and loss before it occurs. This often means installing technology that helps authorities identify and arrest the suspects if they choose to partake in crime.
That prevention begins as far out as the parking lot of the store, because effective deterrence begins the moment the would-be thief arrives at the perimeter of your property. If implemented properly, these preventive measures can also provide detectives with leads in the event a crime does take place.
The Benefits of a Strong Perimeter Security Strategy
According to the NRF’s 2022 National Retail Security Survey, in addition to the astonishing 26.5% increase in ORC (a loss of roughly $700,000 for every $1 billion in sales), retailers are increasingly concerned about the violence often associated with ORC incidents. Increased prevalence of firearms and other weapons used in retail crime puts the safety of consumers, employees and communities at risk.
It is crucial that effective deterrence begins as soon as a potential threat arrives at a premises, even as far away as the parking lot. Once an individual who may use a weapon is inside the establishment, escalation can occur quickly.
In addition, heading off would-be offenders before they reach the store ensures minimum disruption to customers and employees, and ultimately is the best-case scenario for your establishment.
A growing number of retailers are increasing their budgets to implement new technologies in order to prevent theft before it takes place.
Preventive security measures such as license plate recognition systems, perimeter surveillance and multi-sensor camera towers may not only help deter retail crime but also detect where problems are occurring. If you become aware of the weak points in your perimeter, security personnel will be able to devise more effective measures to reduce potential threats.
Enhance Your Perimeter’s Security
A secure perimeter is the first line of defense against external theft, including theft linked to organized retail crime (ORC).
Traditional security relies on human law enforcement or security personnel, who cannot be everywhere at the same time. Adding smart security technology like IoT sensors, artificial intelligence (AI) tools and other real-time technology provides a set of “electronic eyes” to also monitor the site perimeter.
Parking lot surveillance towers can be one way to identify suspects entering or exiting the parking lot, as well as when potential threats arrive on the premises. In addition to dissuading bad actors, surveillance towers also create a sense of security for employees and customers.
Approximately 70% of crimes involve a vehicle, according to the International Association of Chiefs of Police. This means that license plates are one of the most valuable investigative leads that law enforcement or security personnel can obtain when investigating a case. Automated license plate recognition (ALPR) camera systems are specifically calibrated to detect and recognize license plates. Unlike traditional video security cameras, an ALPR system makes license plate reader evidence easily accessible and quickly searchable.
Some ALPR systems, like the Flock Safety ALPR system, enable law enforcement to receive “Hot List” alerts on vehicles that have been known to participate in ORC. If a city has created a virtual perimeter around their shopping districts using ALPR cameras, they will be alerted if a “Hot List” vehicle enters or exits their shopping district. Police can then take appropriate measures to likely deter additional crimes before they take place.
For example, Redlands police officers recently received an alert from our Flock Safety ALPR camera network that a vehicle that had been involved in ORC at a well-known Manhattan Beach, Calif. fashion store was traveling in a shopping district that contains the same store. Dispatch quickly assigned units to saturate the area and officers contacted the store to provide a description of the vehicle and the three suspects.
Although the vehicle was not located, it is quite possible that the suspects saw the incoming police vehicles and fled the area before committing a crime. No other store in the area reported a theft, supporting the theory that the suspects observed the increased police presence and decided the risk was too great.
ALPR cameras also provide leads to identify suspects and connect them to other crimes. A prime example also occurred in Redlands earlier this year. A six-person ORC crew had been hitting stores across the Inland Empire, targeting high-end fragrances, cosmetics and perfumes. Stores were losing between $8,000 and $12,000 worth of product each time.
Utilizing specialized GPS technology, RPD and Riverside Sheriff’s Department officers were able to arrest all six subjects over two separate crime events. The Flock Safety ALPR cameras installed around the perimeter of the shopping district were instrumental in identifying the involved vehicles and connecting the six suspects to numerous crimes that had been committed, including one ORC incident that turned violent when the suspects assaulted a pregnant employee.
This large-scale case led to RPD and Riverside Sheriff receiving recognition from the California Organized Retail Crime Association as the 2022 case of the year.
The final, critical piece of addressing retail crime is building strong, strategic partnerships with all members of the community. Redlands police would not have been able to solve the case above, as well as dozens of other retail crime cases, without the relationships that had been built with local retailers, property owners and store managers. We recommend the Flock Safety ALPR system precisely because it enables businesses to better collaborate with local law enforcement through technology.
I encourage any retailers experiencing theft issues to reach out to their local police department to discuss proactive preventive measures that can be taken utilizing 21st-century technology. You might want to ask for additional patrol officers on-site, for their suggestions on technology that may help and for other safety tips that store management or employees can employ.
Assistant Chief of Police Travis Martinez is a 27-year veteran of the Redlands Police Department and recipient of the 2022 Officer of the Year Award by the Southern Chapter of the California Robbery Investigators Association. Assistant Chief Martinez is known across the country for educating audiences on the use of innovative and affordable technological strategies to address crime trends occurring in communities.