“Back in the day” I was standing in a Marshalls store watching the installation of an EAS system. I remember the excitement and the potential it represented. Finally, a device that could watch shoplifters since we couldn’t watch them all. It was a game changer and within the first few weeks we were racking up the apprehensions—kids, moms, doctors. The missing link appeared shortly after with the arrival of the “soft” tag. Now everything and anything could be tagged and protected. It was a great mouse trap…until the mice got smarter.
Today, EAS still serves an important function. It keeps many of the “opportunity” shoplifters honest and the requirement to remove the tag defeats such famed rationalizations and defenses such as “It was an accident,” “I meant to pay for that,” and “it’s not really stealing.” Unfortunately, for the professional shoplifter such tags are little more than an inconvenience. And for Organized Retail Crime groups (ORC), the chiming door bell is just a signal that the race has begun. The problem of ORC has garnered a lot of attention over the past five years. The size of the problem and its total impact is still uncertain. It’s difficult to label one theft ORC and another “regular” shoplifting. We know that estimates of shoplifting costs as percent of total losses haven’t significantly risen. ORC has probably always existed, but through experience we’ve discovered far more about this secret world than we believed could exist. To really understand it, we need to investigate ORC groups not at the point of theft, but at their final destination.
The destination requirement has presented a problem. The problem is the same as we’ve always faced in loss prevention—time and resources. Knowing where to wait, having enough people in place, and the successful ability to follow a potential ORC member to their drop-off point. They tend to know far more about us than we know about them. We have to play by rules they don’t. By sheer numbers the odds greatly favor their success over ours. But like all things, technology follows and where there is a problem someone is going to discover a solution.
Today’s ORC solution is electronic tracking. It’s the most cost-effective and efficient manner to tip the scales in our favor—to change the game from cops versus robbers to technology versus manual efforts. Embedded tracking technology puts the intelligence in our hands. It’s the ability to state, “doesn’t matter where you steal from, I’ll be notified,” and “it doesn’t matter how fast you drive, I’ll follow at my own pace.” Coupled with the things we already have, like trained LP agents, CCTV systems, and EAS tags, retailers now have four strong pillars to begin to resolve the ORC problem. Like an exception based reporting system, we have a better mouse trap.
Will ORC groups learn to defeat the system? In time, maybe, but since we tag high-end goods and since they steal them in bulk, defeating requires they slow their game. It means they have to take the time to remove “everything” and that affords us the opportunity to stop that particular crime —so the worst case is we win a battle and keep the war for another day.
Of course, the details behind our Bluetracs system aren’t shared in a public venue. I can tell you, it’s designed in way to make detection difficult, it operates on a three-level tracking technology to ensure location identification to within a few feet, and I can tell you it’s all web based tracking and alerts, and that our RF technology fits the “bill” in most states for police probable cause. And most importantly, it is changing the game on ORC. Fewer resource requirements, lower costs, more successful investigations, and a lot of law enforcement support.
I can also suggest that if you think you have an ORC problem, if you’re struggling with the effectiveness of your investigations, find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time too often, or you aren’t comfortable with the amount of stolen merchandise you have to let walk to get your big ORC answers—give us a call and schedule a demonstration, see our custom solutions and be surprised at exactly how cost effective and powerful Bluetracs is.
Authored by: Ray Esposito