What Can You Do About the Growing Number of Smash-and-Grabs?

Posted by Rick Charney on January 19, 2022

The latest growing problem for retailers is smash-and-grab theft. This is a form of a burglary that involves smashing into a barrier like a door or breaking a window, grabbing anything of value, and quickly driving or running away. Often, the costs to repair the damage to the property exceed the value of the items stolen.

Many traditional retail security technology and services fail to stop these thefts. In most cases, the retail property manager won't know their security is lacking until their business becomes a victim. Unfortunately, more and more news stories are reporting on smash-and-grab crimes.

Smash-and-Grabs in the News

In Los Angeles, a group of thieves used a sledgehammer and e-bike to smash the windows of a department store at a high-end mall. This situation involved about 20 people who got away with $5,000 worth of assets leaving behind about $15,000 worth of damage to the retail store.

WBOY interviewed the chief of police who states these crimes do more damage than the loss of the stolen merchandise. Apparently, this incident was one of many similar crimes in the San Francisco Bay area and Beverly Hills.

These organized retail crime gangs ransack high-end stores and steal whatever they can before taking off in vehicles. The news story goes on to say these crimes may be part of a sophisticated criminal network. They recruit young people to steal merchandise to sell in online marketplaces.

The WBOY story quotes an executive who plans to hire a security guard. However, the same article points out that security guards are not trained to engage with perpetrators. They're not equipped to chase or subdue suspects. Part of it is due to the increased chance of violence. All they can do is observe and report.

An AhmedabadMirror article tells of another crime where five intruders broke into a store and stole an estimated $25,000 worth of merchandise. The suspects used bear spray on the security guard. In another location, four brazen people stole merchandise worth $20,000 right in front of customers and staff.

A department store got robbed by 80 criminals while another had almost 20 people who broke in. All of these incidents occurred in California. Governor Gavin Newsom has directed the police to increase patrols near large retail stores. The governor also plans to propose an increase to the state budget to stop retail theft.

National Retail Federation's Crime and Security Survey Updates

The National Retail Federation indicates that organized retail crime costs retailers an average of $700,000 per $1 billion in sales. Moreover, its 2020 Organized Retail Crime Survey has found that three out of four retailers have been a victim of ORC.

A little more than half of the respondents plan to allocate additional technology resources to address risk. More than one-third will increase their annual loss prevention budget. More than half believe ORC gangs exhibit more aggression and violence.

The NRF's 2021 Retail Security Survey finds the pandemic continues to increase the overall risk for companies. The survey asks loss prevention professionals what they will do to battle the increase in crime and risk. Half say they will invest in technology.

Not only do retailers need to find a way to deter smash-and-grab thefts but also protect their customers and employees.

What's Causing the Rise in Smash-and-Grab Thefts?

This is a nationwide problem. Some places are affected more than others because they have less harsh punishments than in other cities. Here's what happened in Chicago. CNN's Faith Karimi tells the story of 14 intruders who stole more than $100,000 in Louis Vuitton handbags and other items. Security experts quoted in the article say the pandemic is not responsible. It's a mix of things causing the rise in smash-and-grab thefts. Part of it is that these crimes aren't always a priority for law enforcement.

That brings up the second factor. That is that the punishment isn't harsh enough as the police department's lack of resources forces them to make hard decisions to focus on more serious crimes. It's considered a lower-level offense. Organized crime rings tend to recruit low-level criminals to do the job. A low-level criminal can steal up to a certain amount and only be charged with a misdemeanor.

This could explain why one of the break-ins had 80 people involved. ORC gangs know the police won't bother if the punishment isn't harsh enough. Another reason for the increase is that thieves have many places where they can easily sell stolen merchandise.

"The result is a ruthless cycle that affects everyone, Eliadis said. Some affected stores will shut down or relocate," Faith Karimi writes. "And retailers plagued by thefts see their insurance rates and private security costs increase -- costs that eventually get passed on the customer."

How Can You Reduce Smash-and-Grab Thefts?

Security guards can certainly help and provide a great physical presence at any access point to any retailer. There are clearly pros/cons with this image and alternative. Guards are expensive and often unable to manage the situation. They're not trained for it. Besides, every state has different requirements for what it takes to be a security guard. Many state governments are overwhelmed that they have little or no requirements because they don't have the resources to manage licensing.

Adding physical deterrents such as bollards, concrete blocks, and decorative rocks can help minimize vehicles driving into storefronts. Additional structural components in the glass/framing (think shatterproof glass) could also slow down criminals. Some jewelry retailers have gotten creative and place fake inventory on the shelves while the real stuff is safely tucked away.

Video surveillance is another very popular layer of security that can help before, during, and after the incident. Clearly the oldest systems can record but these days, suspects are wearing masks, sunglasses, and sometimes hats to be unidentifiable. Newer systems use video analytics to help determine suspicious behaviors. The most advanced systems have actual virtual guards proactively watching the cameras in real time remotely looking for suspicious activity. Imagine watching the cameras yourself and seeing a vehicle circle the parking lot a couple times, back into a parking spot, sit idle waiting for the right moment, and then one or more people difficult to identify rush in and rush out, often with backpacks, tools, or weapons. Especially when this is a repeat offense, imagine the trained virtual guard taking action as the situation escalates.

One possible action is to activate an on-site speaker and warn the intruders. The operator is located in a safe place away from the retail store but can also call someone onsite immediately. The technology makes it possible for them to communicate with trespassers on the property.

Considering some of these criminals are part of ORC crime rings that are not easily deterred by the speaker, the security professional can call the police to help ensure they head to the store.

While following the crooks' movements, the monitoring operator can keep the police informed of their actions. Occasionally, law enforcement will get to the business fast enough to arrest the suspects before they leave the property. Video surveillance with high-quality cameras can often collect information to help identify the suspects and capture license places to lead to an arrest.

Remote video surveillance can also help enhance efficiencies. It can spot customer service problems and bottlenecks. Even if they don't have good intentions. Video can capture potential safety hazards so the property can fix the problem to maintain safety and minimize liability.

Video surveillance also shows insurance providers that you've taken steps to reduce risk. As a result, they may lower insurance premiums.

How Video Monitoring Led to an Arrest During a Smash-and-Grab

A pickup truck drove around the parking lot of a shopping center in Dallas. Eventually, the truck reversed into the front of a grocery store twice, in an attempt to break into the ATM. Two suspects came out of the truck and tried to clear the path leading up to the ATM.

This retailer has Stealth's remote video surveillance service. By this point, a trained monitoring operator uses the audio speaker to talk to the suspects and warn them to leave. This remote monitoring operator had been watching the action on the screen from one of our five international control centers.

The suspects started to leave but the monitoring operator had already called the police before activating the onsite speaker. Within a few minutes, the Dallas police arrived and arrested the suspects. Police know when Stealth reports a problem, they will have video verification. This allows them to act quickly.

Stealth Monitoring has a team of skilled employees in their monitoring centers, project management, video review, computer programming, research and development, and customer support departments. Our trained monitoring operators watch more than 50,000 cameras in real-time protecting almost 3,000 locations from five dedicated 24/7monitoring centers. These efforts lead to more than 800 arrests every single year.

Not all video surveillance monitoring platforms are as labor intensive or innovative. The audio deterrent is often effective in real time as long as it’s triggered by a trained human operator during the act. It's important to ask about these features and capabilities. Refer to this article for a checklist of questions to ask to help you choose the right video surveillance service.

There is no one-size-fits all solution in remote video surveillance. Every industry has distinctive requirements. Even companies within the same industry won't have the same requirements as it depends on the property size, layout, and location. Look for a company that has experience with your industry and location.

If you have questions about video surveillance technology and what your requirements need to include, please contact us. We'd be happy to help explain the requirements and answer any questions.

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