Do you ever get the feeling you are being watched?

If you are shopping in a retail store, are in a retail store’s parking lot, or in the common areas of a mall, the chances are very good that you are correct.

Private eyes…may be watching you.

Not only are the employees of the store watching; the video cameras are watching, and the store security personnel and your fellow shoppers are watching.

Add to that the security tags, clips, or hidden devices embedded in the mechandise which is offered for sale and you can begin to appreciate how extensively some stores are “wired”—waiting for unsuspecting shoplifters to “trip” over those wires.

The next time you enter a retail store’s fitting rooms to try on a sweater or pair of pants, pay attention to any notices which may be on the wall as you enter: “Notice: activities on these premises are monitored”. Monitored by whom…how? They usually do not say. Just that you’ve been given notice that you may be watched.

Retail establishments are ususally private enterprises located on private property. The general public is “invited” onto the premises…and retailers can “dis-invite” or ask a shopper to leave, or even prohibit them from entering the store in the future.

Is anyone looking?

The Tier- 1 Program provides education, information, assessment, and referral services for first-time arrested retail theft offenders. Its  multi-disciplinary staff  has also provided consultive and research services for more than 29 years to retail merchants, law enforcement, and members of the judiciary who want to establish self-supporting alternative sentencing and intervention services for individuals charged with retail theft.

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© Michael J. Pisani 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael J. Pisani and Tier1Program with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

“Because it’s there”

That was British mountain climber George Mallory’s response in 1924 to the question “Why climb Mount Everest?”

It does not come as a surprise to me when some TIER-1 Program participants respond in similar fashion to the question “What was the reason for your decision to steal the item?” 

Answer: “Because it was there”.

The  sweater, earings, or book on display at a retail store apparently presented itself as something that had to be taken. There was risk involved, excitement, challenge, some skill- all of which very often resulted in material reward. In addition, the behavior could also elicit the admiration of one’s peers.

But the analogy does not hold upon closer examination.

First, although there are risks, variables and potential dangers involved in both activities, they can usually be carefully calculated, weighed, and anticipated in one; whereas in the other, the risks and variables are unknown, indeterminate, and uncontrolled.

Climbers know the terrain, have detailed maps, know where the fissures, cracks, and chasms are. They have prepared for the specific trek for several  months, anticipated the weather, and are physically and psychologically prepared.  They also expect, and have planned for, the unexpected.

In contrast, most first-time-arrested retail theft offenders are unprepared for, and usually do not know, the nature of the risks inherent in their behavior.

They do not know where the security cameras are placed. They do not know which merchandize contains security tags. They cannot identify retail security, some of whom look like shoppers or sales staff. And their behavior is usually impulsive and not well-planned.

It’s like climbing a mountain in the dark…and it’s snowing.

The Tier- 1 Program provides education, information, assessment, and referral services for first-time arrested retail theft offenders. Its  multi-disciplinary staff  has also provided consultive and research services for more than 28 years to retail merchants, law enforcement, and members of the judiciary who want to establish self-supporting alternative sentencing and intervention services for individuals charged with retail theft.

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© Michael J. Pisani 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael J. Pisani and Tier1Program with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The song “Lost in the Supermarket” performed by The Clash (written in 1979  by Joe Strummer and Mick Jones, from the album London Calling), has been interpreted as a biting commentary on consumerism.

The “shopper’s”  initial visits to the supermarket/consumerism are for the “special offer…guaranteed personality”: the short-lived and positive feelings that come with the the possession of highly advertised consumer goods.  But regardless of the touts associated with the offers and the goods, he or she eventually comes to realize that it is no longer possible to “shop happily”: the promise is not in the payoff.

The lyrics describe the empty offer of consumerism, but they are also an allegory about one type of shoplifter. Searching for acceptance, satisfaction, completion, status, or happiness by engaging in retail theft may result in a short-term sense of accomplishment or reward. But since that emotion or sense does not last, it needs to be repeated, re-stimulated…more chances taken…with less odds of continued success. 

The shoplifter becomes less defined by the emotions elicited by the goods which he or she has stolen than by the habitual or compulsive behavior of shoplifting.

And that’s another story.

The Tier- 1 Program provides education, information, assessment, and referral services for first-time arrested retail theft offenders. Its  multi-disciplinary staff  has also provided consultive and research services for more than 28 years to retail merchants, law enforcement, and members of the judiciary who want to establish self-supporting alternative sentencing and intervention services for individuals charged with retail theft.

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© Michael J. Pisani 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael J. Pisani and Tier1Program with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Our last posting noted that certain intervention strategies effectively prevent, deter, or diminish the incidence of shoplifting.  In turn, these methods of intervention significantly reduce the costs of law enforcement, corrections, retailers, and-ultimately- the costs paid by consumers.

If that is true, why aren’t these strategies more widely adopted and used?

First, decision-makers need to know  that there are alternatives to traditional methods of correctional intervention. Government funding, and particularly the lack of it in tough economic times, is very often determinative of whether new approaches are initiated.  When there is no money available for programs, or funding has been reduced, government officials need to become aware and informed of effective alternatives. 

Second, most people are not only uncomfortable with change; they are adverse to change. Think of changing the direction of a large ocean liner when an iceberg is sighted.  The hazard has to be sighted, reported, and a determination  made whether to change course.  If there is a decision to change direction, then how and when to change course must also be decided.

Even if a report of “hazard ahead” is heard, the sighting confirmed, and the decision to change direction is made, it will take time to initiate and successfully execute a turn involving a 250,000 ton ship. The changes in momentum, speed, and resistance (wind and water) must be anticipated and considered-individually and dynamically-for the change to be successful. 

Third, there may be social, political, economic or other incentives to maintain traditional criminal justice responses to retail theft. Being “tough on crime” can attract community support and votes. However, alternatives to traditional criminal justice responses to crime can still be considered “tough”, while at the same they can avoid costing taxpayers in excess of $31,000 per year.

That is the estimated cost of keeping one offender incarcerated in state prison for one year.

The Tier- 1 Program provides education, information, assessment, and referral services for first-time arrested retail theft offenders. Its  multi-disciplinary staff  has also provided consultive and research services for more than 28 years to retail merchants, law enforcement, and members of the judiciary who want to establish self-supporting alternative sentencing and intervention services for individuals charged with retail theft.

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© Michael J. Pisani 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael J. Pisani and Tier1Program with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

DANGER! HIGH VOLTAGE!

Some people only have to read that sign and they will avoid the fence or area on which the sign has been posted.

Other people require more information in order to be deterred from entering a dangerous area:

1)      They may be unable to read or understand English and require a sign written in their own language or a graphic image (e.g. lightening bolt) in order to be deterred;

2)      They may need an explicit warning:  if you TOUCH THE FENCE, you can be ELECTROCUTED; or

3)      They may need additional information: if someone touches the fence and then touches YOU, then BOTH of you may be electrocuted.

Some people are not deterred by any of the above information. They disregard or discount the information or warnings. 

And there is a subset of individuals who not only are NOT deterred by warnings, but who are apparently stimulated by warnings which in effect motivate them to engage in the very behavior warned against.

People who do not understand or obey warnings very often get shocked: if they are lucky they live; if they’re not lucky, they die.

Shoplifting is playing with HIGH VOLTAGE. And engaging in such behavior can have expensive, and even fatal, consequences.

Selected intervention strategies can effectively prevent, deter, or diminish the incidence of shoplifting, with significantly reduced costs to law enforcement, retailers, and consumers

If that is so, why are these interventions not being utilized?

More on that in our next post.

 

The Tier- 1 Program provides education, information, assessment, and referral services for first-time arrested retail theft offenders. Its  multi-disciplinary staff  has also provided consultive and research services for more than 27 years to retail merchants, law enforcement, and members of the judiciary who want to establish self-supporting alternative sentencing and intervention services for individuals charged with retail theft.

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© Michael J. Pisani 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael J. Pisani and Tier1Program with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The TIER-1 Program’s November 22, 2012 post discussed how individual actions and reactions associated with the commission of retail theft can quickly escalate and result in the death of an alleged shoplifter, store security personnel, store employees or shoppers.

Since that posting, two fatalities involving alleged retail thefts from large retail stores have occurred and been reported: one near Atlanta on November 26 and the other in Houston on December 7. (www.wrcbtv.com; www.huffingtonpost.com) These two incidents have received national attention and will probably continue to be the subject of discussions concerning the practices of store security personnel and local police when detaining suspected shoplifters.

Shopifting is not a capital offense, but over the past 10 years there has been an increase in the  number of deaths which have occurred during  the apprehension, or attempted apprehension or detention, of suspected shoplifters. (www.lptoday.com/deaths.htm)

To keep some perspective on the number of shopping visits to  larger retail stores, almost one-third of the U.S. population visits Walmart stores in the  U.S. each week. (www.businessinsider.com) That  statistic does not, however, minimize the seriousness of  those cases where customers or security officers are injured or die during the commission of retail theft.

Loss prevention specialists are responsible for using effective methods consistent with the store’s policy, as well as public policy and law, in order to protect the retail merchant’s property and deter shoplifting.  They also are to provide for the safety of the store’s  customers and employees. 

Both tasks have become more difficult during the past 10 years. Whether due to shifting economic or social factors, these challenges require retailers, law enforcement, the courts, and the general public to work collaboratively to diminish the economic, social, and personal  costs of shoplifting.

The Tier- 1 Program provides education, information, assessment, and referral services for first-time arrested retail theft offenders. Its  multi-disciplinary staff  has also provided consultive and research services for more than 27 years to retail merchants, law enforcement, and members of the judiciary who want to establish self-supporting alternative sentencing and intervention services for individuals charged with retail theft.

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© Michael J. Pisani 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael J. Pisani and Tier1Program with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

“Store A” is one of the few remaining retail merchants in the United States which sells only CDs and vintage LPs, audio cassettes, and 45 rpm records. Every item in the store sells for $10.00.

Whenever “Big Lenny”-a retail thief with eclectic tastes in audio products-steals a $10 item from Store A, the owner of Store A must then sell approximately 10 (ten)  items priced at $10 each to recoup his  loss from that one stolen item.

Do the math and you realize that if Store A does not deter Big Lenny and shoplifters just  like him, each of whom might steal several items each week from Store A, that retail store will be out of business within six months.

This “retail math” applies to both large and small retailers, whose profit margins are much lower than customers estimate them to be. As a result of such “shrinkage”, retail merchants such as Store A have gone out of business due to  undeterred retail theft committed by store employees or customers. 

Economic survival is  a major reason why many retail merchants have made it their  “store policy” to arrest and prosecute ALL shoplifters, regardless of the value of the merchandise. There is some disagreement concerning the effectiveness of that policy. More about that next week.

The Tier- 1 Program provides education, information, assessment, and referral services for first-time arrested retail theft offenders. Its  multi-disciplinary staff  has also provided consultive and research services for more than 27 years to retail merchants, law enforcement, and members of the judiciary who want to establish self-supporting alternative sentencing and intervention services for individuals charged with retail theft.

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© Michael J. Pisani 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael J. Pisani and Tier1Program with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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