“Witless” Protection Program; Trying To Stop Shoplifting And Dumb Criminals, True Loss Prevention Stories Part I
Over the course of my careers, I have had to stop shoplifting, arrest intoxicated persons, conduct traffic stops for traffic violations, etc. Looking back on my U.S. Air Force experiences and my Loss Prevention experiences, I have to wonder what some people were thinking (or not thinking as the case may be) when they committed their crimes. Some people commit criminal acts, and in return for testifying against others, they are exonerated or given plea deals, they may even be placed in a Witness Protection Program. I have never dealt with those people. I, on the other hand, have dealt with some who should have been placed in a “Witless Protection Program” because they just…well, let my examples speak for themselves.
In one store which I worked, our team frequently focused efforts to stop shoplifting in the jewelry department where we saw a high stock shortage percentage. One day I watched a teenage girl as she stopped at a jewelry counter and began looking at earrings on countertop displays. I observed her select and place a pair of earrings in her pants pocket and head for the doors. Our earrings did not have any Checkpoint labels on the backers so unfortunately, no alarm sounded when people would exit with stolen earrings. Well, that turned out to be the case this time. The young lady exited, no alarm sounded, but I knew she had the merchandise so I stopped her and returned with her to go to the security office. As we arrived in the office, my shoplifter had a sudden “asthma attack”. I might have taken it seriously had I not observed her sliding the earrings from her pocket and trying to hide them underneath her posterior as she slid down the wall to the floor. She was very dramatic, wheezing, breathing hard and holding her chest with her free hand. I informed my suspect that if she got a break during her asthma attack I would appreciate it if she could hand me the earrings she had taken out of her pocket and was sitting on. It didn’t take too long before the “asthma attack” was over. Earrings recovered and teenager turned over to mom.
It isn’t always easy to stop shoplifting of some merchandise because it is so small it can be hard to detect.Then there are situations when it is apparent someone has stolen merchandise, but the suspect is clueless. In another store where I was the Loss Prevention Manager I encountered a “Nitwit” thief who decided to steal a Maglight flashlight. If you aren’t familiar with these items they are the large, aluminum flashlights often carried by police officers. This particular flashlight is nearly one foot in length. I watched from the end of the aisle as the perpetrator removed the flashlight from the peghook and placed it down the front of his pants. It was so long it stuck out of the top of his waistband. These items were protected with Checkpoint labels and when I followed him to the front of the store, as he started through the Checkpoint antennas, the alarm did sound and I stopped him. Once we were back in the security office he tried to deny he had anything despite the alarm activation AND until I pointed out the part of the flashlight that I could see! Yes, another candidate for the “Witless Protection Program”.
During my time in the U.S. Air Force, I was a Law Enforcement Specialist. On one occasion when I was on patrol I received a call to respond to a location for an attempted suicide. When I arrived I pulled in front of a red, fastback Ford Mustang and noticed a young man was sitting on the curb in front of this unique, classic car looking rather sheepish. The driver who was standing beside the suspect told me the young man had decided to try to kill himself by jumping in front of his car. The driver turned the Airman over to my custody and left. As I took the slightly inebriated Airman into custody I explained to him that the next time he decided to try to commit suicide, it would be best not to do it in front of the Base Commander’s car! My prisoner would have been a perfect fit for the “Witless Protection Program”.
There are plenty of thieves and just plain dumb criminals out there. Some are shoplifters. For those who shoplift Checkpoint labels work and can stop shoplifting. Keep your “wits” about you and protect the merchandise in your store and keep profits up.
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