How far would you go to catch a crook? I had a few employee theft cases that I would say qualified as being a little extreme. One that comes to mind involved a couple of part-time hires we brought on board for our holiday season. I was the Loss Prevention Manager for the store and assisted in all of our new hire orientation sessions. During the holidays we would hold orientations for groups ranging from 2 up to 30 people. In one particular orientation I noticed that two fellas were not paying attention and were joking back and forth. That caught my attention and I made a point to find out their names and where they would be working. I also noticed their attention was piqued when I gave the tour of the security office. I should note, I only kept a camera or two on screen and shut off all other monitors. I never gave away where my cameras were located, especially the covert ones. It was obvious my two new compadres were trying to take in as much as they could. I found out the guys would be working on our freight team in the early morning hours. I made a point to conduct a covert overnight surveillance after they had a few days of training under their belts. It was during this surveillance that I saw my new employees had been assigned to work in our electronics freight and that included the secure lock-up for backstock electronics! I thought I saw some suspicious activity but couldn’t confirm it. In those days we had limited camera coverage in our lock up areas and even over our salesfloor. Our retail anti-theft devices were limited to electronic article surveillance (EAS) soft tags. Alpha Security products were not a part of our theft prevention strategy at the time.
For my readers who are not familiar with Alpha Security retail anti-theft devices, these are a family of EAS products that can protect a wide variety of merchandise. Some products are locking cables, protective locking boxes, wire wraps (known as Spider Wrap) and hard tags. All of the devices are compatible with EAS pedestals and will activate the alarms if they are carried too close to doors where pedestals are situated. Tampering with these devices also results in alarms sounding that are built into Alpha’s products.
As I said, our company was not using Alpha Security at that time so many of our items were unprotected. Since merchandise was coming off of the trucks from the distribution center and the freight team was pushing it to the floor or the backroom, it was vulnerable to theft. I reworked my schedule around my suspects’ schedules. I also partnered with my District LP Manager and made him aware of the case. After several covert observations from my office with no definitive results I brought my L.P. team in overnight to assist me. We set up a covert camera, trying to get the best angle in the stock room. I then climbed on the steel shelving and hid behind merchandise on the top shelves. Now if you’ve ever seen the metal grating that serves as shelves for some big home improvement stores THAT is the stuff I was laying on. I will tell you that is one of the most uncomfortable positions I have ever had to maintain and especially when the subjects were in the stockroom with me. I did this at least three times and each time was a minimum of 6 hours. After several inconclusive surveillances in which suspicious behaviors were observed and merchandise went missing a district L.P. investigator came to assist me. Another 2 nights on the shelves and another 2 nights we only had suspicion but no firm evidence of a crime.
The Investigator was feeling pressure to close the case and so even though we only had one of the two suspects working, he conducted an interview. Since I was still relatively new to my job I deferred to his position and experience. Well, the interview yielded no admission and no merchandise was recovered. Needless to say neither employee returned to work. Days after the interview I found product packaging hidden behind plumbing access doors in one of the employee restrooms. As I look back on it now, I believe Alpha Security devices would have prevented the thefts I am certain the two employees were responsible for committing.
With all of the choices of retail anti-theft devices on the market today, there is little reason an internal merchandise theft case should ever have to get this big. Don’t go to great lengths to try to catch bad guys, just use Alpha Security products and save yourself the trouble.
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