The billion dollar brick and mortar war on crime
Traditional retailers are experts in tackling the crime inherent in the exploitation of physical spaces. But now they now have to spend millions to fight organized crime networks by also using online platforms to fence goods. To combat growing crime and threats to physical security, traditional retailers are turning to technology to fight back.
A recent report in the Wall Street Journal uncovered complex shoplifting networks, using online retail platforms like Amazon to sell stolen goods. CVS has tracked down a group it says is responsible for the theft of $ 50 million worth of product over five years from dozens of stores in Northern California. Thefts at CVS increased by 30%. The Coalition of Law Enforcement and Retail estimates that organized theft in retailing today accounts for around $ 45 billion in annual losses for retailers. The pandemic has only made matters worse. More than two-thirds (69%) of those polled in the National Retail Safety Survey published by the National Retail Federation said they see an increase in fraud, crime and overall risk to their business. organization due to COVID-19.
It’s not just about financial crimes. The survey found a significant increase in the threat of workplace violence, according to 61 percent of respondents. We’ve all seen viral fighting videos erupt over mask policies and social distancing. Faced with the pandemic, some people forget how to act in public. Responsible for enforcing store policies, employees are treated poorly, resulting in a nationwide shortage of retail workers. The problem has become so serious that the CDC has issued official guidelines on how to limit workplace violence related to COVID-19. Then there is the threat of gun violence, which remains the main concern of retailers. Rates of violent crime and murder are increasing across the country.
All of this has put serious pressure on traditional retailers to offer safe shopping environments. Against the ropes of e-commerce, a pandemic and a labor shortage, dealing with growing threats to safety and security in physical stores is becoming the biggest problem for the retail industry of brick and mortar. The world’s largest traditional retailers are strengthening their security and anti-fraud teams. Target, Home Depot, CVS, TJ Maxx and Marshalls have hired investigators and security professionals and invested in new technology to keep customers safe and pay for products. Some stores have even started to limit the hours to try and prevent crime.
Not that they need another one, but traditional retailers have a new reason to hate Amazon. “[Amazon] is possibly the largest unregulated pawnshop on the planet, ”Sgt. Ian Ranshaw of the Thornton, Colorado Police Department told the WSJ. “It’s super difficult to deal with them. “
Amazon says the company does not condone stolen goods fencing and regularly works with law enforcement to stop criminals seeking to exploit the online marketplace. An Amazon spokesperson said the company spent $ 700 million last year to combat site fraud. However, online crime is not limited to Amazon. Criminals have exploited the Internet for profit since its inception, but the recent proliferation of anonymous online marketplaces makes selling stolen goods easier than ever.
Getting shoppers back to malls will be impossible if they don’t feel safe. Mitigating COVID-19 is a major element, as is safety and security in a world of increasing threats. Every customer has a cell phone and an internet connection, which means security incidents can go viral within an afternoon, even if it’s a false alarm. Equally important to buyers is the perception of safety. Showing safety cards in visible places is only part of the process. Just as important is accurate and timely information about unexpected incidents. To help keep people informed, some physical retailers are using mobile apps to connect mall staff with visitors so everyone is on the same page during a situation that impacts safety or safety.
“We have moved to the critical communication platform within [property management software] Mallcomm, just like we had a critical situation where a firearm was being used on site, ”said Kyle Dodd, REIT security manager for Allied Properties, during the recent Propmodo webinar. “We were able to communicate immediately with the tenants, letting them know that we are actively investigating with the local police. It saved our lives because we can move people who are not supposed to be in this area away and keep them updated so that they don’t come back too soon.
Mobile communication can prevent the kind of panic and chaos that makes incidents worse. Anyone responsible for safety and security in a store knows that most incidents are false alarms, but that doesn’t mean they can’t create a situation on their own. Being able to provide tenants and visitors with information about the authenticity of threats and the appropriate action is a vital lifeline in unexpected and rapidly developing situations.
“You always have to do the right thing and assume it’s real,” said Jeff Adams, Westfield vice president of customer services. “Initial communications are just the start of the entire incident process. We must remember that security is about protecting and serving.
Many outlets have started using centralized Security Operations Centers (SOCs), large command centers with professional security surveillance cameras, to respond to incidents. For most stores, this is usually someone watching dozens of cameras trying to get a needle out of a haystack. Now, those efforts can be amplified with technologies like AI-enabled cameras that can traverse data and camera feeds at an incredible rate, quickly check for threats, recognize license plates, automatically record information. sensitive and transmit crucial information to law enforcement. Door jamb cameras, tucked directly at eye level on the sides of a door frame, are used to catch criminals who are skilled at hiding their faces. Point-of-sale scanners with integrated security scales and cameras with secure facial recognition technology are also a key part of fraud and theft prevention. “The technology that exists today allows us to respond quickly and provide a level of safety and security that people really seek these days,” said Dodd.
Retail safety and security also means protecting employees and security guards. The confrontation with shoplifters and fraudsters resulted in several incidents of violence, turning a financial crime into a violent crime. Gathering the information necessary to track and apprehend the criminal is always a better option than direct confrontation which could result in physical damage. The technology helps with this by transparently providing law enforcement with any information the store may have collected on the suspect.
Tackling retail organized crime, fraud, workplace disruption and violence comes down to store security, which can quickly become costly. Already battling low e-commerce margins, the overhead of additional security is a tough pill for physical retailers to swallow. Stores are suffering from historic losses and should also foot the bill to avoid losses, adding insult to injury.
We cannot turn the burden of store security entirely on to traditional retailers. Lawmakers and online shopping platforms need to do more. In some areas, shoplifting is a simple offense that costs violators less than a $ 1,000 fine. There is no law that allows for stacking shoplifting charges, making it difficult to prosecute repeat offenders. Some jurisdictions do not classify violence used to hold stolen property as armed robbery, telling criminals that as long as you pull out the gun after you steal the item, you can avoid the felony charge.
Online platforms should also start demanding more through third-party seller verification. The INFORM Consumers Act, currently in Congress, is a bipartisan effort to tackle illegal online fencing. Legislation requires e-commerce platforms to verify sellers via government-issued ID and necessary contact information.
“Consumers deserve to know who they are buying products from online in order to make safe and informed purchasing decisions for themselves and their families,” said Alex Gourlay, Co-COO, Walgreens Boots Alliance . “The INFORM Consumer Law will bring transparency and accountability to today’s digital markets and make it much more difficult to deceive consumers with counterfeit, counterfeit, expired or stolen items. “
Securing physical spaces, preventing loss, and ensuring the safety of customers have been issues in the brick and mortar retail business since the early bazaars. Technology increases the level of crime a person is capable of committing while simultaneously increasing security efforts against them. Retail stores are some of our most heavily used physical spaces, preventing crime and violence is the top priority for the real estate industry, but the scale of the growing problem means brick and mortar businesses can’t do it alone.