The good news is that the National Retail Federation (NRF) recently released its 2013 economic forecast pointing to a projected 3.4% boost in retail industry sales. And the estimations are running true to form: The projected increase in retail industry sales is just shy of the 4.2% growth reported in early 2012.
But the bad news is that retail crime is still taking a big bite out of retail revenues, which is estimated in billions of dollars. The biggest slice of the loss-by-theft pie in 2012 went to organized retail crime (ORC), according to NRF’s eighth annual Organized Retail Crime Survey. ORC’s impact on retail is currently projected as exceeding $30 billion, and 96% of the retailers who were polled reported that they have been victims of organized crime over the past 12 months, according to the survey. This record-setting figure rose from 94.5% in 2011, and 87.7% of retailers noted that ORC activity in the U.S. has continued to climb in the past three years.
Rich Mellor, vice president of loss prevention for NRF, pointed to the retail industry’s increased awareness and proactive initiatives in pursuing ORC gangs. He believes that “this is an issue that involves everyone’s cooperation when it comes to protecting retailers’ assets.” To help the cause, Universal Surveillance Systems recently launched the www.stoporc.org Website and is now extending the connection to social media via Facebook (www.facebook.com/ussorganizedretailcrimefoundation) and Twitter (twitter.com/stop_orc). The goal is to provide platforms where convenience stores can share data and increase the collective knowledgebase.
Fighting Back with Technology
And what’s good for one is good for all. New high-tech security devices are raising the level of security for stores, as well as the c-store community. Integrating video solutions with IP technologies and hi-res digital imaging systems can capture sharper images that are more likely to help identify thieves more accurately and prevent incidents of theft, intrusions and vandalism.
Additionally, the footage captured through IP video surveillance allows convenience store owners to share information with other locations and law enforcement quickly, in order to identify ORC and prevent future incidents.
“Internal theft is always a concern for employers, and external theft needs to be addressed at all times,” said Rosemary Erickson, a forensic sociologist and president of Athena Research Corp. “The decrease in the robbery rate for convenience stores is reflected in the overall downturn in crime nationwide.”
But the increasing number of convenience stores and more hours of exposure means that there is just more risk for c-stores. She is a proponent of sticking to the basics: The obvious use of drop safes can help limit employee and customer access to cash; safeguards, such as external cameras and lighting (especially near gas islands), fencing around the perimeter of the back and sides of the store, and limiting access to a single entry at night, raise security levels overall.
The use of debit and credit cards, contact-chip technology, and smartphone payment apps may eventually limit actual cash changing hands and are likely to reduce related robbery rates, but c-stores by the very nature of their business will still operate with some cash going forward.
“We’ve definitely seen plenty of advancements in technology, but a robber is the same criminal as he was for the last several decades,” Erickson said. “The only difference is that today, he probably carries a cell phone.”