A Checkpoint Security System Can Help Stop Shoplifting; Asking The Right Questions Can Stop Organized Retail Crime
What is it that I most love about the Loss Prevention career field and retail theft prevention? I can’t say that it was ever one thing in particular. I enjoyed investigating internal and external theft. I enjoyed working with new anti-shoplifting technology as it rolled out to our stores, from new Checkpoint tags to Checkpoint Security System hardware such as antennas and deactivation pads. I really loved to stop shoplifting, and in fact I think my most interesting stories are from the shoplifters I caught (and in a few instances didn’t catch). Some stories are funny; some were scary as I reflect on them now, and some you just have to shake your head at in wonder.
One shoplifter story that was interesting involved a gentleman who came into our store and went to the sports card collections located near our checkout lanes. There was nothing that stood out about this shopper except that he was near one of our high theft areas. The individual packs of ball cards were source tagged with Checkpoint Tags so they would activate the Checkpoint Security System antennas at our front doors if someone were to try to walk out with unpaid merchandise. The boxes of collector cards were sometimes source tagged with Checkpoint Tags and other times weren’t and our Loss Prevention Team would have to place the tags on ourselves. As I mentioned, the ball cards tended to be a popular area for shoplifters. The packs were small enough they could be placed in a pants pocket easily. Usually individual packs were stolen by the kids who would be looking for a favorite player or one of the latest game based card series that was out at the time. The boxes were another matter, and these were being stolen by professional boosters and would find their way to flea markets, or sold to “buyers” who in turn sold them somewhere else.
My suspect in the case spent a lot of time hanging around the cards before he started to select several boxes and placed them in a shopping cart. After he had loaded up three or four boxes, he took them into the store where he concealed the boxes under his coat and walked towards the exit. As he approached the Checkpoint Security System antennas, he set off the alarm and continued out the door where we stopped him. We took him back to the office and I recovered the merchandise and processed him, taking his information and picture and entering his information in our case management reporting system. I questioned the subject about what he was going to do with the boxes of cards and he told me he was going to sell them at a flea market in another state. I asked if he had ever done this before and he admitted he had done so in Minnesota. I questioned him for about fifteen minutes and satisfied I had gotten all the information I could from the suspect, I contacted the local police, and explained what the subject had admitted to me. Police were not always interested in Organized Theft Rings and treated this as another shoplifter. The last step I had to do was email an alert to my District Manager and our designated Area Investigator since the case involved “booster” activity.
The next day I received a phone call from one of our Area Investigators located in Minnesota. He had been alerted to the report I submitted in our reporting system and by the information I sent to our Area Investigator. He recognized the name and description of the subject we had caught and it turned out he had a large case he was investigating in his area involving a theft ring stealing boxes of ball cards. The investigator asked for any additional information I could give him and the number to the local police department to see if he could speak to a detective. I provided the information and we said our goodbyes. I never heard from him again, but I did find it interesting that my team and I were able to stop shoplifting by this person who was being sought halfway across the country.
While I did not have the satisfaction of knowing whether the case played a part in closing a bigger investigation, I did have the pleasure of knowing that I had asked the right questions. Checkpoint Security Systems can help to stop shoplifting, identify suspects and recover merchandise, but by conducting a careful interview, it is possible to find out things aren’t always as they seem. That always gave me a sense of accomplishment in Retail Loss Prevention.
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