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Retail Burglaries: The Non-Random Phenomena

Posted on 9/25/15 11:30 AM

While most retail break-ins are opportunistic, a small share are skilled professionals, employing sophisticated planning and methods, resulting in a more successful and lucrative burglary. How then can a retailer limit the potential of a retail burglary occurring?

Retail burglaries typically occur at night and/or after regular business hours. In most cases, burglars break and enter through doors or windows and leave before police or security are able to respond to the event.  In general, burglars are motivated by economic gain, although some simply enjoy the excitement of stealing merchandise.

Becoming more visible are the high profile “smash and grabs”, which involve ramming a car or other object into the building to gain entrance and attempting to grab as many items as possible. Smash and grabs are often performed by multiple suspects, the goal being to take as much as possible and make a quick escape.

Regardless of the type of burglary or whether the suspects were professional or opportunistic, most retail burglaries are not random acts of theft. Like a robbery, there is some level of store selection. Stores that are located in isolated areas, locations known to have poor security features coupled with desirable merchandise can make a location an easier target than the store next door. Like shoplifters and robbers, burglars tend to choose targets based on convenience or the desirability of goods located in the store.

Retail burglars are particularly interested in expensive items that are easily portable and resalable, like electronics, games, designer clothing, liquor and cigarettes. Professional burglars involved in organized retail crime focus on stealing razors, electronics, certain health and beauty care products and even baby formula. Even pharmacies are seeing an increase in burglaries targeting prescription pain medication such as Oxycontin, Dilaudid and pseudoephedrine, which can be diverted from the normal prescription process to sell on the street.

Taking the Target off Your Back

Although there is no guarantee against someone trying to break into a location, there are preventative measures that can be taken to protect against burglaries, such as:

  1. Know Your Surroundings:

    The location of the business can play a role in the probability of being burglarized. Is it close to a major highway or roadway? Is it grouped with other businesses or stand alone? What is the crime rate in that geographic area? Have other retailers in the vicinity experienced robberies, burglaries or other retail crimes?
  2. Physical Security:

    Proper lighting, a quality security system and solid locks are the foundation of a good physical protection program. Depending on your location and risk factors, other protective resources can include; concrete posts or barriers in front of doors and access points to prevent vehicular smash and grabs, metal gating, window glazing and shatter-proof protection to reduce window entry and pressure-switch mats that detect entrance to a restricted area.
  3. Proper Store Planning:

     Depending on the type of merchandise sold, placement of specific merchandise within a store can be a deterrent. We see many locations designed with their high profile departments, such as electronic and pharmacies, at the back of the store. Not only does it inconvenience burglars by requiring them to spend more time in a location, which is a deterrent, it also causes legitimate customers to walk through the entire store to get to these items, thereby possibly increasing sales.

  4. Employee Awareness:

    Following addition to adhering to policies and procedures related to store closing, merchandise protection and other security related procedures, employees should be coached on the importance of and how to report suspicious activity. An example of suspicious activity may be a customer spending time looking at the ceiling (cameras, alarms), testing merchandise protection equipment, asking questions about security equipment, etc. Management should not criticize employees who seem over-cautious and they should respond immediately when an employee calls for assistance.

According to the FBI, burglaries have the lowest arrest rate and the lowest clearance rate of all serious crimes reported annually. Locations that are repeatedly burglarized present enormous costs to the business and can often result in store closure. Take preventative measures to protect your location and reduce the likelihood that your location will fall victim to this crime.

Authored by

Joe Faul

  Joe Faul, National Client Services Director

  Joe Faul Linkedin

Topics: ORC, Organized Retail Crime