Here’s How to Overcome the Top 4 Retail Security Problems

Posted by Rick Charney on October 14, 2019

Despite the advent of online shopping, communities still need retail centers. They remain a big contributor to the U.S. economy. One out of every six jobs is in retail, for a total of almost 35 million jobs per the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC). The report also indicates retail real estate accounts for 20 percent of the U.S. GDP at almost $4 trillion.

Brick and mortar stores still generate 90 percent of all sales. However, the definition of people working on retail properties has grown to include fitness, healthcare, education, and other service industries.

The High Price of Retail Organized Crime

Still, every dollar matters more than ever in the retail industry. The financial impact of retail organized crime is huge. You won't believe what one of the most popular crime destinations turns out to be. It's the shopping mall according to Psychology Today. Why shopping centers? Because they provide a wealth of victims and vehicles.

Here are the most pressing issues that threaten retail security.

1. Theft and Shoplifting

Organized retail crime (ORC) has climbed in 2018 as D&D Daily reports. It's the most cases recorded in a year or a fourth quarter. ORC consists of shoplifting, cargo theft, retail crime rings, and other organized crime that take place in a retail setting.

The amount reported for the entire year was $165 million or an average of $102,982 per case. Top stolen items for 2018 were clothing, electronics, and tools. Also up are retail violent deaths at 488 for the same year.

That's not all. Loss of inventory, or shrink, costs the U.S. retail industry $46.8 billion in sales. Making up almost 70 percent of shrink are employee theft and shoplifting and organized crime.

2. Parking Lot and Garage Crimes

FBI data shows the number of larceny-theft from motor vehicles — both motor vehicles and accessories — exceeds 1.4 million for 2018. Together theft from motor vehicles and accessories comprised more than 33 percent of all offenses in the U.S.

On top of that, FBI Crime Data Explorer lists parking garages and parking lots as the No. 3 location for all violent crimes with 28,516 incidences. That's an average of 78 occurrences in parking lots per day! It is a huge problem at shopping centers that compels the need to implement retail security systems.

3. Vandalism

Psychology Today states that the most prevalent crimes involve vandalism and public disturbance at almost 7 out of every 10 incidents. Behind that are property crimes and violence.

The FBI does not track vandalism as a separate crime. Rather, it categorizes vandalism as larceny-theft. The information from the FBI reveals that an estimated 5.2 million larceny-thefts occurred in the U.S. in 2018 with almost 450,000 incidents taking place in buildings.

For a retail center, the negative effects of vandalism can cost more than the cleanup:

  • Can hurt reputation because the property feels unsafe.
  • Can bring in fewer shoppers and visitors because the property looks unsightly.
  • Can drive up insurance premiums.
  • Can require closing business while under repair.

Even if insurance comes through, getting the payout to do repairs may not happen quickly.

4. Security Guard Costs

To resolve the biggest problems in retail, some property owners opt for on-site security guards. Unfortunately, security guards are one of the top challenges in retail security. The salary alone can be cost-prohibitive. For every guard you hire, the cost goes up exponentially.

Many shopping centers that rely heavily on security guards end up investigating other retail security systems because they could not justify the cost. It can be difficult to afford to hire enough security guards to place them across the entire property to have eyes on every corner.

Determined suspects watch the security guards to determine how they patrol the area. When the guard leaves the area, the suspects make their move. By the time the guard returns, the criminals will have moved on.

What to Do About Retail Security Challenges

Retail property managers and owners try to create a safe environment for their retailers and guests. Fortunately, select retail security services can help make it a safer place as well as ease these problem areas that retail managers face:

  • Complaints from shoppers
  • Liability losses
  • Higher security costs
  • Negative impact on net operating income

Consider security guards are one of the problems, what then can a retail real estate manager do about these problems? An effective retail security program requires implementing multiple solutions. No one solution can work alone. The more layers you add in your security, the more effective it can be.

1. Lighting

Lighting offers one of the easiest and cheapest ways to enhance shopping center security. Lights can keep the property from having from any dark and shadowy areas. Such areas give criminals a place to hide.

Lighting plays a critical role in parking lot security. However, not just any lighting will work. First, it needs to be the right color and kind of lighting. Common sense says brighter lighting is better, but not in this case. Additionally, some hues don't work as well as others.

Second, it needs to be appropriately spaced. You want to space out the lights just right. If they are too far apart, then some areas appear dim. When the lights are too close, then you're spending more than you need.

Also, it's extremely important for retail security services to include a review of the entire garage including the stairwells for dark areas and hiding spots. You most likely have a dumpster around the back. Check the lighting for that too. Dumpster diving and anonymous dumping of giant piles of trash can be a problem.

2. Signs

Signs that say, "This property is under 24-hour video surveillance," "All activities monitored by a video camera," and "No loitering" make a powerful deterrent. Experienced criminals know that not all businesses with these signs really have surveillance. That is why the shopping center needs to back those claims by having visible retail store security devices inside and outside of the property.

Moreover, those cameras need to have someone watching them. Otherwise it could lead to a false sense of security. More on that shortly.

3. Landscaping

Yes, you put a high priority on landscape design because it helps create a warm and inviting backdrop for your retail center. It can also give suspects hidden access to the building and more places to hide.

You don't have to give up on landscaping. The trick is to implement a smart landscape design that enhances the aesthetics without helping criminals. When you invest in design, you also want to invest in regular maintenance. Keep bushes, trees, and shrubs trimmed to ensure sidewalks remain clear and that they don't block views or provide covert entry to buildings.

4. Training

You have something to enhance security guards at your disposal: the employees and store managers at your retail property. They are located throughout the premises and have an investment in the property. A safe property means attracting more visitors and guests, making employees and tenants happier, and helping them keep their jobs.

Retail security training consists of teaching them what to look for and what to do when they see something. It is also invaluable to create a security guide for everyone who works on the property.

Here are some things you can put in the guide:

  • Require new hires to undergo complete screening.
  • Make it mandatory for employees to wear a name tag.
  • Outline procedures for opening and closing stores.
  • Encourage pairing up when walking to cars.

If your property has any processes or procedures, include it in the training.

5. Retail Store Security Cameras

Lighting, landscaping, signs, and employees together can make a difference in deterring crime. It can still have some gaps. For example, who watches the property at night? What if the crime occurs in the parking garage where employees are not typically working?

Retail store security cameras can capture everything going on inside and outside of the property. One common problem is internal theft. Remote video surveillance can help deter crime, whether it's employees or outsiders committing it.

Internal theft has cost businesses an average of $1.13 million in 2016 according to a CNBC report. Employee theft is a frequent problem because employees know how the retail security systems work and its weak spots. This is another reason you want to conduct employee training. When you inform them that people are watching the cameras, that alone can deter theft.

That brings up the next point. You don't want to just have cameras that record everything. You also want someone watching the cameras. Signs stating "Property under surveillance" make people think someone is watching over them. It may make them feel more secure knowing that someone sees them and will call for help if something happens.

Here are some retail center videos stopping crime:

With remote video monitoring, a trained operator watches the sensitive areas and parts of the perimeter on monitors. As soon as something questionable happens, the operator can alert the suspect through the audio speakers. If this doesn't scare away the suspect, then the operator can call the police and stay on the line while tracking the suspect until the police are on site.

Every dollar your retail center brings in matters. Video monitoring can boost your net operating income. It can even increase the value of your property. The right retail security systems can lead to a fast ROI, protect employees, and multiply the bottom-line. To learn more about retail center security, please contact us.

Posted in: Crime Prevention, Video Security Systems, Security Guards & Savings, Video Monitoring