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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SHOPLIFTING RESPONSE, REACTION, AND RECOURSE behind the "ban the box" initiative. "I felt held hostage by my past and wanted a fair chance to be considered without being judged based on my conviction, getting a job so that I could move forward." While not directly related to the issue of retail theft, many retailers feel this trend also impacts the perception of decriminalization of a wide range of offenses and removes one more tool for retailers to control loss. Further, it represents an additional weakening of deterrence for offending. Increased Violence and ORC Activity Over the last several years, every gathering of loss prevention practitioners has ended up with a significant focus on violence in the retail workplace. These concerns include traditional workplace violence issues, increases in armed robberies, and active-shooter incidents. But the major point of discussion involves increased levels of violence, threats of violence, intimidation, and use of weapons by shoplifters. "Different groups are now getting more involved in theft, including a number of gangs and other felons that have habitually been involved in more violent crimes," added Bill Williams, formerly with the Los Angeles Police Department. "In California, following the passage of Proposition 47 they've turned to shoplifting because the penalties are so much less." Whether involving ORC incidents or individual shoplifters, these issues seem to span the entire spectrum from big box to specialty retailers. This trend continues despite attempts by retailers and loss prevention to reduce and mitigate violence by changes in policies and procedures. The Drug Crisis and Its Impact on Retail There's no denying that the US is facing an opioid abuse epidemic, and the impacts of that are being felt by retailers in many ways, but opioids are only one class of drug in play. For instance, the widespread use of methamphetamine (meth) has resulted in many states adopting stringent requirements for retailers regarding the handling of products that are components or precursors to meth, such as Sudafed and Advil Cold and Sinus even though they are officially over-the-counter medications. Some are now criticizing retailers because there is a sense that addicts are turning to retail theft to fund their habits. Many retailers would agree as they have long felt the impact of shoplifting due to drug dependency. But a Pennsylvania judge recently said that a major retailer was "part of the problem" because of its return policy and that retailers are not doing enough to combat the issue. There are now even reports of a link between gift card issues and the opioid epidemic, with addicts stating that drug dealers will often accept gift cards as payment in lieu of cash. While gift cards can be sold at physical locations, such as pawn shops and other outlets, online sales sites currently provide an easy way for thieves to convert the cards to cash at an 85 to 90 percent return. State Senator Richard Briggs of Tennessee reported a direct connection between gift cards and drug overdoses based on reports received in his home state. Retail theft is prevalent in Tennessee, with Knoxville reportedly ranking first in the nation per capita for card abuse and theft. In Knox County, he revealed that police linked sixteen of nineteen overdoses to the sale of gift cards during a one-month period in 2017. In the city of Knoxville, police also tracked eighty-three to ninety-eight overdoses to gift cards during a three-month period. "It would be no different than if there was a rock lying there, and if you lifted it up, and this horrible smell came out, and this monster came out," said Senator Briggs. "We had no idea that the organized retail theft was related so intimately with the opiate and drug trade in general in Appalachia." Sandra Johnson Bill Williams Richard Briggs 18 JANUARY–FEBRUARY 2019 | LOSSPREVENTIONMEDIA.COM 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.

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