Using all the tools at your disposal to combat profits walking out the door

Organized retail crime (ORC) is a booming business—booming to the tune of $30 billion a year. The National Retail Federation estimates that while 88% of retailers were targeted two years ago, last year that number jumped to 97%.

ORC is so destructive because it's multiple heads of a hydra: instead of shoplifting or employee theft, which tend to be isolated, albeit repeat, offenses, ORC involves multiple parties ripping off the same outlet or chain multiple times across multiple locations. As soon as one member of the crime ring is caught, another member fills in to commit the same crime.

Not only that, but methodology can differ among criminals. "Push out" thefts involve a thief concealing stolen goods (typically expensive but small items like electronics) in a purse or bag and then walking out of a store without paying. "Box stuffing" involves a criminal packing big-ticket items inside a cheaper item's box, paying for that item, and then walking out of the store. This is to say nothing of operations with an employee involved. Boxes of merchandise go missing on the loading dock, inventory is misrepresented, and before you know it expensive items wind up at a fence for resale.

Just recently, an organized retail crime operation out of Florida involving seven suspects boosted nearly $179,000 in electronics from a chain of Wal-Mart stores. These are not small-potato crimes. The question is, what can a retail loss professional do to stop these thieves?

Hidden Cameras & GPS Work in Tandem to Stop Theft

Putting an end to organized retail crime involves a multi-faceted approach. The thing about ORC thieves is that they know a store's weaknesses, especially when there's an employee involved in the operation.

Of course, the first step is to have a robust security and surveillance system. Covering big-ticket items, point of sale machines, entrances and exits, and loading docks is essential. And, with the way security systems have evolved in recent years, job sites can be connected through one network, allowing your security team to monitor multiple retail stores from one centralized location, saving man hours and increasing efficiency. For smaller retailers, security systems can be installed with remote viewing capabilities, making it simple for a manager to check in on a store right from their phone or computer.

But remember, organized retail crime syndicates know weaknesses. If there are camera systems, there are likely going to be blind spots that they can exploit. For this reason, hidden cameras act as a perfect cover to fill in those gaps. They can be disguised as everything from smoke detectors to AC adapters, or hidden in plain sight as nondescript black boxes.

Hidden cameras can be placed in any point of vulnerability—not only in areas uncovered by surveillance cameras, but also in employee areas (provided they're not areas where employees have a reasonable expectation of privacy) and near point of sale devices to provide enhanced detail of transactions and potential money theft.

Much like hidden cameras, GPS tracking devices supplement existing surveillance without alerting ORC thieves to your security measures. Small, battery-powered trackers can be concealed in shipments as a countermeasure to a retail store experiencing an increase in employee theft. These devices can be set with digital perimeters, known as geofences, and will alert a retail loss prevention manager the moment the merchandise exits a predefined area (say a block radius around a store). Once the tracker breaks the barrier, it will begin sending live location updates, giving LP managers and law enforcement a live look at where stolen goods are going.

In recent years, loss prevention specialists and police have worked in concert using GPS tracking, not to bust in-store theft, but to track the location of stolen goods to crack down on fences and take down larger ORC operations.

In addition to small GPS devices hidden in merchandise, some high-end companies use custom-made GPS trackers hidden in everything from jewellery boxes to pill bottles, tracking individual products to stop smash-and-grab operations in addition to organized retail crime.

By varying your approach to combat ORC, you give thieves less opportunity to plan for your retail loss strategy and introduce the element of surprise.

Loss Prevention Kits Offer Everything You Need in One Place

Based on feedback we've heard from our clients, BrickHouse Security has assembled custom-made loss prevention kits to help combat organized retail crime.

Featuring multiple combinations of hidden cameras, GPS trackers, body worn cameras, alarm systems and more, these kits are tailor-made for specific circumstances and retail stores of all sizes. All kits come housed in durable OtterBox cases so retail loss managers can transport them easily among job sites, or leave them behind in stores for individual branch managers to deploy them.

What's more, besides BrickHouse's pre-assembled kits, we offer the option to build kits based on your own unique needs. If there is a certain combination of hidden cameras and GPS trackers that would help in your loss prevention strategy, our experts are here to work with you to build the perfect solution to stop organized retail crime in your stores. Every kit contains not only the devices themselves, but they conveniently include all necessary accessories, including SD cards and cables, and service plans so the moment the kit arrives it's ready to be deployed.

Fighting back against organized retail crime requires a whole host of tools. At BrickHouse Security, we make it as easy as possible to get the solution you need to stop money from walking out your door.

Published September 21, 2021