3 common weaknesses that thieves take advantage of

You know all of those movies about pulling off the perfect heist? In them, thieves identify a high-value target — say, a bank or a vault with jewelry — and then painstakingly detail a plan of attack. The film shows how hard the thieves work to strategize, with one guy mapping out a grid of their intended target and another looking into every conceivable way they could be captured.

Well, that's the Hollywood version of thieves. In reality, the vast majority of thieves are nothing like that. Far from being the careful planning and highly organized types, most thieves are impulsive and clumsy. They don't rely on their own complex strategizing. Instead, they count on something else: store weaknesses.

Simply put, almost no thieves are Robert Redford in "The Hot Rock." They're not professionals, they don't have sophisticated strategies and they're highly susceptible to capture. Why, then, do they keep getting away with it?

Most successful thieves identify and exploit store weaknesses.Most successful thieves identify and exploit store weaknesses.

Identifying weaknesses is the name of the thievery game

"The average shoplifter is captured only around 2 percent of the time."

The average shoplifter is captured only around 2 percent of the time. This leaves them with a 98 percent success rate to enjoy their stolen goods — and put a dent in the profits of whatever retailer they targeted. And these aren't professional shoplifters we're talking about — they're casual thieves. Looking at these two facts — the 98 percent success rate of the typical shoplifter versus the fact that the huge majority are non-professionals — the seeming incongruity becomes clear. How can sloppy and impulsive thieves enjoy such a low risk of capture? One of the main answers is simple: They identify clear vulnerabilities within stores, and take advantage of them. In this post, we've identified three of the key retail store weaknesses that prospective thieves are on the lookout for, as well as solutions to each problem:

  • Garments kept too close to the door: No thief is looking to make his or her task overly challenging. Instead, when an easy opportunity presents itself, they'll take it. That's why, as a Rutgers release on common shoplifting techniques points out, thieves will frequently look toward the door to see if there are any garments being kept around there. Items close to the exit present a lucrative target because thieves can then just snatch them and walk right out the front door, often without fear of being observed, since staff members are likely occupied by patrons at other places in the store.

    The solution: If you're going to keep garments near the entrance/exit of the store, you need to account for the fact that this is an inherently vulnerable area that will be difficult to monitor and more challenging to detect something like a theft in progress. Therefore, items displayed at this physical point need to be held to a higher security standard. One way to do that, as Rutgers suggests, is to make sure that merch located close to the door is hung on hangers facing alternate directions, so that "the hangers 'lock up' when someone tries to remove many at once." Another way to better guard garments that are close to the door is to outfit them with ink tags, which will either sound an alarm as a thief tries to leave or generate an attention-grabbing ink explosion if they attempt to remove the tags.

  • A lack of a clear employee presence around the store: If a thief peruses the aisles of a clothing store and doesn't see an employee anywhere in his or her scope of vision, he or she will feel a lot safer swiping an item. At a 2010 loss prevention workshop that took place at the University of Florida, actual shoplifters informed attendees during a panel that most thieves have a keen eye out for employees, store detectives and managers. If these folks aren't around — or if they only appear infrequently — this provides a thief with a significant window of unobserved time in which to steal a garment.

    The solution: Make sure your workers are both attentive and well spread out throughout your store. No, that doesn't mean your employees need to be watching every patron like a hawk — that'd be bad policy. But by merely having your workers well-dispersed and visible to customers, that will serve as a significant deterrent to potential thieves.

  • The possibility of walking out the front door without an alarm sounding: The first thing a thief will do when he or she walks into a store is look at what the setup is like right at the front door. If there doesn't appear to be any technology in place to detect and alert store staffers to the act of merchandise being stolen, the prospective thief will feel emboldened. Therefore, retailers that have an exit that seems like you can simply walk out are at an immediate disadvantage.

    ​The solution: In your store, you don't want thieves to feel a sense of relief right when they reach the exit of your store. On the contrary, you want them to feel their greatest surge of anxiety. The way to do that is by rolling out RF Pedestals within your store. A robust pedestal system doesn't only function to detect stolen merchandise at a very high rate — it also serves as a strong visual deterrent to thieves, even the most amateur of whom know what a pedestal signifies. This is the kind of resource that will give possible thieves pause. 

In a world of amateur thieves who don't think too much before committing their crimes, it would seem that retail loss prevention is an easy feat. But it isn't. After all, retail stores have a lot to focus on besides the possibility of theft, including inventory maintenance and customer service. For retailers that want some much-needed expert help in the realm of loss prevention, CONTROLTEK ISS is your partner.