LP Magazine

MAY-JUN 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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I magine, if you can, the country's polarized politics spilling over into a store aisle and a retail associate trying to calm a shouting match between two customers. Or try to picture a criminal gang storming a mobile phone store, throwing customers and personnel out of the way as they grab handfuls of merchandise. It's probably not hard. Videos like these abound. They are exactly the types of incidents that attract thousands of eyeballs on YouTube, make indelible additions to a retailer's record, and are one more reason for retailers to punch back at seemingly more aggressive behavior in retail environments. For the safety of employees and customers, to maintain environments conducive to attracting shoppers, to recruit and retain workers, and to safeguard hard-fought-for reputations, more retailers are taking stock of their ability to prevent and respond to store violence. For example, in a newly released survey by ASIS International and Everbridge, retail respondents, by a wide margin, identified violence and active-shooter situations as the top two threats facing their organizations—over natural disasters, cyber crime, and supply chain issues. Also, compared to two years ago, 47 percent of retail security decision-makers said they're now more concerned about employee safety, and 67 percent think company leaders are more worried about worker safety too. Thanks to social media, there are yottabytes of anecdotal evidence to suggest that incidents of aggression in retail stores are increasing, exactly the kind of behavior that can spark a physical altercation if not effectively handled. The risk is probably sensationalized but also very real, according to Larry Hartman, director of risk management, loss prevention, and safety at Goodwill Industries of Central Florida and a former LP executive at Burlington Stores, Home Depot, and Kmart. He said historical threats persist—such as violence associated with organized retail crime (ORC) and robbery. "But these days it also takes less to put people off, to rub someone the wrong way," said Hartman. "It's a more sensitive environment now, and if something happens, you certainly see and hear about it more in the media today." Surveys by the National Retail Federation (NRF) reflect a consensus among retailers that in-store violence has grown, and it's an issue that retailers need to confront, suggested Robert Moraca, NRF's vice president for loss prevention. "We've always told our people to not resist, so no one gets injured, but how does that fit today's more violent ORC criminals? There is a level of violence that we've never really seen before, and it's not just active shooter and active assailant, but just more aggression in general," he said. It appears to be a global phenomenon. According to new data from the British Retail Consortium, the Association of Convenience Stores, and UK's Union of Shop, Distributive, and Allied Workers (USDAW), violence and workplace abuse leveled against retail store staff is up dramatically. Over the last ten years, for example, USDAW has found a consistent level of exposure, with between 50 to 60 percent of workers reporting an incident of verbal abuse in the last twelve months, and 30 to 35 percent reporting an incident of a threat of physical violence. The group's latest survey, however, saw a spike in those numbers, to 66 percent and 42 percent, respectively. Among the wider security industry, workplace violence has become an increasingly hot topic—perhaps more than it should be, suggested Lynn Mattice, managing director at Mattice and Associates, a security consulting firm, in his presentation at the ISC West security conference in April. Mattice bemoaned the constant drumbeat about workplace violence to which security directors are currently exposed, but he said it's warranted for LP executives. "Everybody is an expert, everybody says you need training, but it's such a small part of what security departments need to do," said Mattice. "Yes, there may be a small increase in events, but the probability is still quite remote—except in the retail industry. In the retail industry it is quite high." The specter of violence has always been a concern for retailers, but there has been an increase in recent years in those that recognize it as a strategic business issue, according to Read Hayes, PhD, director of the seventy-member Loss Prevention Research Council (LPRC). The issue of violent crime has now been the subject of four LPRC summits, which bring together law enforcement, LP leaders, and solution partners, and its working group targeting the issue has become the second-largest working group in the LPRC, with a focus on four critical issues: parking lots and other areas like Larry Hartman Read Hayes Since customers also don't want to shop in a fortress or see draconian security, how should LP leaders be looking at the problem? Hayes said LPRC research points to the importance of examining the entire retail environment and considering how it might be changed so that "red guys" feel less safe and "green guys" feel safer. 16 MAY–JUNE 2019 | LOSSPREVENTIONMEDIA.COM TOOLS AND TRAINING HELP LP TEAMS PUNCH BACK AGAINST VIOLENCE

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