LP Magazine

JAN-FEB 2019

LP magazine publishes articles for loss prevention, asset protection, and retail professionals covering shrinkage, investigations, shoplifting, internal theft, fraud, technology, best practices, and career development.

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Erika Shields assert that retail companies in question either don't take crime seriously or don't want to spend the money necessary to prevent it. Rather, they are relying on public services and the taxpayers' dime to handle what could be prevented or mitigated. Further, there is a lack of understanding—or a lack of empathy—for the role that retail theft plays as a "gateway" crime to more serious offenses such as drug crimes and violent crimes, which only further impacts reaction and response. Decriminalization and Reduction of Sanctions for Larceny When it comes to controlling crime, one of society's aims is to deter bad behavior through the use of criminal sanctions. In fact, deterrence theory could be considered the bedrock of almost any criminal code. According to the National Institute of Justice—the research, development, and evaluation agency of the US Department of Justice—a primary means to deter crime is to increase the perception that criminals will be caught and punished. While the legislative branch and criminal justice system have long recognized the extreme exposure that retailers have to theft, there is strong sentiment within the industry that a weakening of criminal sanctions has occurred and will, at least in theory, drive higher rates of offending and loss. These changes have largely been driven by budget concerns in the public sector and the sense that law enforcement agencies and the courts are beyond capacity, thus necessitating either increased funding or a reduction in the number of offenders being referred, prosecuted, and incarcerated. State Felony Threshold Changes. Since 2001, at least thirty-five states have raised their felony theft thresholds—the value of stolen money or goods above which prosecutors may charge theft offenses as felonies rather than misdemeanors. This comes at a time when the retail community is seeing a rise in organized retail crime (ORC) where the potential financial gain is significant compared with the reduced risk of meaningful criminal sanctions. "There are clearly people that should be in jail who are now free due to the new legislation," said Loren Naiman, formerly with the Office of the Los Angeles County District Attorney. "Theft is now a consequence-free crime, resulting in an increase in property crimes in Los Angeles by almost 10 percent since these changes have taken effect." Local Police Response Thresholds. On an informal basis, many law enforcement agencies have created a de facto reduction in criminal sanctions for shoplifters by establishing dollar thresholds for when they will respond to a shoplifting case. While this does not necessarily prohibit the retailer from pursuing criminal prosecution, it makes it much more cumbersome and also removes the immediate sanction and deterrence from the equation. Prop 47. Proposition 47, the ballot initiative passed by California voters in 2014, has become somewhat of a "rallying cry" in the retail loss prevention industry regarding the perceived softening on shoplifting, organized retail crime, and retail fraud. It reduces certain drug possession felonies to misdemeanors. It also requires misdemeanor sentencing for petty theft, receiving stolen property, and forging/writing bad checks when the amount involved is $950 or less, including any and all repeat offenses. "It's basically decriminalized shoplifting and theft, making it a low-risk/high-reward proposition," said Aaron Moreno, senior director of government relations for the California Grocers Association. "Thieves are more brazen, putting retail workers in danger." "Ban the Box" Initiatives. Nationwide, over 150 cities and counties have adopted what is widely known as "ban the box" where employers are restricted in their consideration of criminal convictions in the hiring decision process. Ten states have also mandated the removal of conviction history questions from job applications. "The purpose of the 'ban the box' initiative is to allow people with a conviction history to go through the interview process and be considered based on their qualifications rather than their conviction history," said Sandra Johnson with California-based Legal Services for Prisoners with Children and part of the campaign Loren Naiman 17 LP MAGAZINE | JANUARY–FEBRUARY 2019 SHOPLIFTING RESPONSE, REACTION, AND RECOURSE In today's dynamic and competitive environment where the wants and needs of the customer remains our greatest priority, there needs to be a balance between protecting merchandise and ensuring our products are available and accessible to the customer.

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