Apprehending the Internal Thief
- By Ralph C. Jensen
- Aug 01, 2014
Some of the most discouraging statistics in the security
industry are the record numbers reported
in shoplifting from dishonest employees. Recent
numbers reported by Jack L. Hayes International
shows that those numbers have increased yet again.
In 2013, nearly 1.1 million shoplifters and dishonest
employees were caught by just 23 large retailers,
who recovered more than $199 million from these
thieves. The retailers involved in this reporting represent
23,204 stores and more than $600 billion in retail
sales. For shoplifting, persons being caught increased
by 2.5 percent; however, the worst news is that dishonest
employees jumped 6.5 percent in 2013.
“What also is of importance is these increases follow
similar increases reported the previous two years,”
said Mark R. Doyle, president of Jack L. Hayes International.
“Retail theft is a serious problem which
is stealing retailers’ profits and causing consumers to
pay higher prices to help offset these losses.”
The world has always had its share of liars, cheats
and thieves; yet, shoplifters and dishonest employees
continue to be apprehended in record numbers. There
are some particularly alarming facts from this survey.
More than 1.1 million shoplifters and dishonest employees
were apprehended last year, and more than
78,000 dishonest employees were caught.
Why the continued increase in shoplifting? Part of
the problem stems from further growth and complexity
of organized retail crime activity. A poor economy
undoubtedly has had something to do with theft and
shoplifting, as well as higher-than-expected unemployment
rates. There are fewer sales associates on the
floor that could help prevent theft, and let’s face it, the
criminal justice system is packed full of other cases.
According to the Hayes International report, losses
from organized retail crime are reported to be more
than $30 billion annually, triple of what they were a
decade ago. As you can imagine, these thieves work in
teams, using distraction to steal such things as overthe-
counter medicines, razors, baby formula, batteries
and designer clothing. Groups of professionals or
international shopping gangs will “hit” a store, often
times using a booster bag, where reports of losses
range in the thousands of dollars.
Stolen merchandise is easy to sell. Thieves have
found that selling their ill-gotten gains can be liquidated
via an online auction. This means quicker sales
and higher prices than the traditional method of selling
on a street corner or at a local flea market. It also
means the thieves have access to a much larger audience
for raising cash.
Because of great technology today, losses from
fraudulent returns/refunds are estimated at $16 billion
per year. Receipts are created through a desktop
publishing program and color printers, and then stolen
items are returned to the store for their full retail value.
There is less of a social stigma than on a shoplifter,
while many professional and hardcore thieves find
shoplifting is a highly profitable, low jail-risk endeavor.
Many would have you believe this is a victimless
crime, which is certainly not the case. There is likely
no way to measure the negative impact that shoplifting
has on the economy and general public. Study experts
estimate there are upwards of 900,000 incidents
daily in the United States. Conservative estimates
show the daily take for this type of behavior ranges as
high as $48 million.
Shoplifting is big business. It costs both the retailer
and general public a lot of money. Stores suffer a loss
of profits, and employees lose their jobs as a result
of cutbacks of staff or layoffs from declining profits.
Consumers pay more at the cash register, not to mention
the loss of sales tax revenue.
In order to fight back against the shoplifting problem,
store chains are putting smart devices everywhere.
There are more than 6 million security cameras
in stores nationwide. While a security camera cannot
stop a shoplifter, it can give the loss prevention officer
an idea of what is going on.
Cameras see everything. They watch down the
store’s aisles and monitor the entries and exits. There
are cameras pointed at the cash register. Look around
when you’re checking out. There are cameras watching
from places you wouldn’t even think of.
Stopping a shoplifter is serious business and security
systems play a key role in deterring a thief. The
bottom line: Loss prevention technology improves the
This article originally appeared in the August 2014 issue of Security Today.
About the Author
Ralph C. Jensen is the Publisher of Security Today magazine.