With the financial challenges of a recession and rising crime rates, malls and shopping centers this holiday season are, as always, targets for criminal activity and threats impacting consumers, retailers, and their employees. The latest estimate for ORC (Organized Retail Crime) loss alone is $33 billion in the United States. According to experts at Andrews International, Inc., a privately owned provider of security and risk mitigation services, the following tips can help retail operators and employees during the holiday shopping season.
Organized Retail Crime: Organized shoplifting gangs have been known to steal upwards of $200,000 in a single mall excursion. They know which retailers are unlikely to prosecute, and those that display merchandise that makes theft easy. Typical tactics include creating a diversion, such as an argument, drawing the attention of employees from others who are stealing merchandise. Retailers and employees should watch all areas of a store when there is a possible diversion. Tip offs for mall security officers are large groups repeatedly leaving and re-entering a mall, depositing merchandise in multiple vehicles usually with out of state license plates, and communicating frequently with handheld devices.
Seasonal Employees-Insider Threats: If possible, background and drug checks should be conducted on all employees, including temporary help. Organized gangs place people within retail stores as employees to facilitate robberies and shoplifting. Seasonal help should never have access to security information such as alarm codes or keys; these should be changed immediately when needed and on a regular basis.
Business Purchases and Checks: A popular scam is for a retailer to be contacted by “an area business” about a large purchase for employee gifts. They then ask if someone can pick up the merchandise and pay by check “on Saturday.” Anytime someone offers to pay with a business check during a time when it cannot be verified by the bank being drawn upon, it is a tip off that something is amiss.
Securing the Store: Criminals often enter a store through back doors left open by employees for ventilation, taking out trash, or sneaking out for a cigarette. Most outlets have back offices, so crimes can be committed without anyone in the store being aware. Doors should be checked regularly and secured at the end of the night, security cameras should be reviewed to ensure they have not been repositioned, and alarms and recording devices should be tested. Additionally, after-hours burglary is common, so there should never be more than $100 left in a cash register draw at the end of the night.
End of Night Cash Drop: Owners or employees leaving a mall alone at night with the day’s cash deposit are a prime target for robbery. If possible, an armored car service should be used for the transaction. If not, use a banking outlet within the confines of the mall. It is ill advised to have a single person carry out this function, particularly if leaving the premises, even if the bank is just across the parking lot.
Targeting of Employees: Parking for employees is often in a designated area, away from the entrance to a facility and more vulnerable. Criminals realize that vehicles in the employee parking area will be there for an entire shift, providing them with a greater window of opportunity to steal a car or merchandise within. In addition to the same precautions consumers should exercise in parking lots, employees should take special care to keep valuables from GPS units to iPods to gifts in their trunk and out of sight.