Keeping Customers Safe While Protecting Company Assests
Keeping Customers Safe While Protecting Company Assests

Nov 1, 1999 12:00 PM

Retail security professionals today have to deal with a dizzying climate of change. High-profile news coverage about random acts of violence is raising awareness of security ... and scaring customers. Even as strategies are put in place to foil shoplifters and other criminals, the overachieving thieves have already moved on to even more diabolical approaches. Technology advances are making more things possible on the prevention side of the equation, but understanding the new technologies - not to mention paying for them - is a constant challenge. All these elements are played out in a corporate retail climate of cost-cutting and cut-throat competition.

To explore the changing trends relating to retail security, we assembled a panel of retail security professionals in Las Vegas during the week of the ASIS show. The session was videotaped for distribution by the Dallas-based Professional Security Television Network, which provides training to security professionals through a monthly videotape series. Edited highlights are included in this special supplement to Access Control & Security Systems Integration. The Retail Security Roundtable was sponsored by Mosler Inc.

Is random violence unavoidable? LARRY ANDERSON of Access Control & Security system Integration, moderator. In today's world, we are faced with multiple high-profile cases of violence in the news, none of which is lost on you or your management. Have you seen a resulting increase in the demand from your managers for security measures? Do you think that violence in the news makes management more likely to seek ways to improve security?

KEN JOHNSON of Albertson's: Now, all of a sudden, it seems money is coming out of the woodwork to provide additional security. It's extremely good for people like us sitting at this table, and for the industry, plus it opens our eyes.

DAVID LEVENBERG of General Growth Properties: The market research we do indicates the customer's number one concern is personal safety, over and above what stores we offer, the kind of amenities we may offer in the shopping center. They are concerned about their personal safety. From our perspective, we know security is a tool we can use in marketing. There is a competitive advantage in providing greater security that may attract additional customers.

MODERATOR: Back to equipment, I wonder what the differences are in the kind of equipment you would use to avoid a random shooting and the kind of equipment you might use to avoid theft, or are these systems similar?

JOHNSON: The only way we could avoid violence is to put metal detectors and an armed officer at our door, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and search everybody that comes in. No retailer is going to do that. Random shootings are just there. They can't be avoided.

LEVENBERG: The reality is that violent incidents are extremely rare. The perception of the public is that violence is around every corner. That perception drives what we are doing to a great degree. Statistically, the number of violent incidents in retail stores or shopping centers is probably not much greater than it has been in past years.

MODERATOR: In effect, money is being applied to something that can't be solved by money.

JOHNSON: It deters some of the robberies on the retail side. But look at the difference between a random act of violence and a robbery. You can deter a robbery to a certain extent, but you can't deter an individual who has gone off into left field and doesn't care about himself or anybody else. There is a big difference there.

LEVENBERG: Much of the money is being spent to address public perception. It won't have much impact on random acts. We just want to make the customer feel safe.

WILLIAM CHAPMAN of Rite Aid: In this business, the retail business, perception is nearly the same as reality to both the customers and the employees.

RICHARD MOE of the Interpro Group: The threat of litigation is also looking over your shoulder. On the restaurant side, most of the robberies you run across are caused by a current or former employee. That is the first place to look. Through training and awareness, you can minimize that level of exposure. But from the litigation standpoint, when you are putting in closed circuit television, be very careful how you phrase the words on the sign so customers don't have an expectation, for example, that somebody is continually watching the monitor and can immediately intercede.

CCTV: Covert or overt? MODERATOR: One of the phrases you hear is that there is a need for protection that isn't intrusive, which sounds like a good goal. I wonder how one goes about achieving this goal.

JAMES HUNTER of Moster: We are finding that the line of what is considered intrusive is all over the board now. We have in the past tried to conceal things, such as cameras in hidden locations, but we are seeing a trend toward putting the equipment out front for two reasons. One reason is to make the consumer or customer or patron feel safe. Someone is watching. Someone is protecting or going to protect them. The other reason is as a deterrent. Someone may in fact walk up to a store front and commit a crime or with the intention of committing a crime. If he sees cameras, logos, signage, he will decide to go 10 feet over to the next store or to the next block down.

CHAPMAN: In the stores where we do have the overt CCTV equipment, we get more positive comments than negative from the customers because of that comfort level. We do not receive much negative feedback.

MOE: I look at it from the standpoint of employee-guest-customer expectations. Whether it is an expectation of providing an extra level of security from a uniformed person or the expectation that someone is monitoring you by the closed circuit television cameras. If they are comfortable with that expectation, everything is fine. If they are not comfortable with that, you have to explain it to them or sell it to them.

CHAPMAN: It goes back to the original premise of the world being a more violent place. I think the customers are much more accepting of those overt systems than they would have been in the past.

JOE MCGILL of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department: Keep that closed circuit television system of high quality! There is nothing worse than having a crime caught on tape for us, and you look at the tape and you can't see what is going on because the tape is five years old. Rotate your tapes. The best thing that you can do is to have a tape for the first of the month, a tape for the second of the month, that you only use twelve times a year - that same tape. This isa minimal cost. Most of your stores probably sell video tapes; you get them at cost.

CHRISTOPHER HERTIG of the Professional Security Television Network: This last spring I taught a young lady in my class who was the director of security at the mall that I worked at 20 years ago. At that time we had a maintenance truck with a red light on top - one officer in the lot, maybe one or two inside. She had a designated vehicle and a horse patrol and a police sub-station in the mall. There has been a tremendous change.

JOHNSON: At Albertson's, we do not have any covert cameras anymore. We have public view monitors. We put signs out in the parking lots that say this facility is protected with camera systems. It is an Albertson's standard, nationwide. We do run into areas of the United States - it depends on the neighborhood - where the people might come to us and say "why are you trying to watch everything we do?" In addition to that, we do audio in our customer service booth, but we tell everybody. We don't do anything covert. We also are setting up police sub-stations nationwide. Law enforcement comes in and sets up a sub-station in front of our store.

Interacting effectively with law enforcement MODERATOR: We have a representative of the police department here today. I am wondering how well do retail companies interact with and cooperate with police agencies. What can be done to improve that interaction and make it more productive? Pam, you had some successes on this front.

PAMELA TERRY of Meadows Mall, Las Vegas: We have worked with the retail larceny unit that the local police department has established, and I belong to a local group called the Retail Loss Prevention Association. We share information. We meet monthly. It has been very helpful. We notice, for instance, if a drug store is losing duffel bags full of perfume while we see a marked increase in parking lot perfume sellers. So all of a sudden, instead of just booting them off, let's try to identify them. At a minimum, let's get license plates and vehicle information. Let's pass it on to the police. Some of our retailers in our organization have experienced thefts in large amounts of liquor and cigarettes by the caseloads, videos, CDs. The new fence is the "Mom and Pop" shop, convenience store or video rental.

MODERATOR: Joe, can you add anything to that success story? Also, please give advice to the others on what they need to be doing to work more effectively with their local police.

MCGILL: First of all, the best thing you can do is maintain a liaison with your local police department. If you do not know who it is that handles retail theft in your area, find out and contact them. We maintain cooperation with many of the loss prevention teams in the different stores here in town and it gives us great success. Have uniform people there, if at all possible. Hire them and keep them posted, but don't tie their hands. I had a case a couple of weeks ago when a uniformed officer in a store watched a guy steal practically everything in the store but those uniformed officers are not allowed to make contact. Only the plainclothes officers are. That doesn't do any good. If the uniformed officer is not going to place handcuffs on him, that's fine, but walk up and say "Can I help you?" "Can I help you find something?" "Do you need something?" "Are you going to pay for those things that you just stuffed down your pants?" It doesn't do any good to have the guy there if you are going to tie his hands.

MODERATOR: What other experiences have you had interacting with local police?

CHAPMAN: We have many locations and, at almost every location, we encourage our local security managers to liaison. We were just talking about setting up liaison here in Las Vegas with my security manager who is based in Denver, but covers Las Vegas. We have a retail council that meets once a month in Denver, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, and in all the major markets where we do business.

MOE: We had a similar group in Dallas/Ft. Worth that met monthly. It was a robbery council, and wehad representatives from many of the major retail companies in Dallas and also robbery detectives and federal officers, and so forth. We met for lunch monthly. The issue of not tying the hands of officers is very important. There is an understanding between the people running that location and their on-site officers, whether they are uniformed or not uniformed. I had a problem in one location where we had a uniformed officer who caused a problem that almost resulted in a civil suit because he took a step too far. That has to be discussed continually and understood because you certainly do not want to tie the hands of the officers. At the same time, certain decisions have to be made by management because they are going to be the targets of the litigation.

LEVENBERG: One thing I see across the country is the retailers who do not prosecute the shoplifters they catch and don't cooperate with the police in terms of taking these people to the next step. What we find is that many of the retailers - and I know there are many reasons, whether it be staffing, training or fear of litigation - but they want our help or they do it themselves, simply get the merchandise back and then let the person go. My opinion is simply that it sets a trend. The word gets on the street quickly that this particular retailer is an easy mark.

MCGILL: There is a particular store here in town that shoplifters will not go into. It's is a big chain - they have 15 stores here in town. Shoplifters know that everybody who gets caught, gets prosecuted. Granted, it's a big problem at first for police repeatedly having to go there. After six months, we find that the word gets out on the street, and they don't go through that door.

CHAPMAN: Being a former police officer myself, I believe in prosecuting people that commit the crimes. But many of the states, and in fact most of the states where our company does business, have civil recovery laws. These laws are effective at dealing with people who are not professional thieves. They do not steal for a living. They are not habituals who have been stealing every other day. These civil recovery laws were passed so as not to burden the police and the courts with petty theft, but still make the person pay financially, so they remember.

MCGILL: Another good program that we have in Las Vegas - and you may want to check with your local departments - is our state law has enabled the private security company to issue a summons which is civil also, but it transfers to the criminal side. The person does have to go to court and face the criminal court.

Interaction with mall management MODERATOR: Another kind of interaction for retailers is with mall management. David, do you see any problems in terms of how mall merchants interact with mall management?

LEVENBERG: We have seen a reduction in the loss prevention staffing at many of the major retailers. Instead of having three or four loss prevention agents on as they may have had in the past, they have one. When that person goes out to make an apprehension, typically they call our uniform people to respond and back them up. We are certainly willing to help our retailers in any way we can; however, it creates some issues. It takes our people away from their primary purpose of patrolling the common area, number one. Number two, there are some civil issues that affect us because our people are not agents for the retailers and did not witness the crime. In most states you cannot make a detention unless you witnessed the misdemeanor occur.

MODERATOR: Pam, do you see similar trends?

TERRY: I haven't seen such reductions in the majors, but I have seen an increase in calls for service from retailers in general. Some are calling us to recover their merchandise, and that is something that I simply will not get involved in. That is their responsibility to recover their merchandise. Certainly we can assist them, but we are not their agents.

MODERATOR: Any comment from the retail side?

MOE: We had a continual policy of prosecuting and reporting incidents to the police because most of our incidents were internal theft. We pushed prosecution and we wanted to maintain credibility with the police departments. Often I would receive a call from somebody saying well, so-and-so embezzled $3,000 and he or she is willing to pay it back. They can't pay it back right away, but they are willing to pay it back. I would like to say yes because it will affect my P&L. I say no way! You have to prosecute. If you take that first dollar (in restitution), in many cases, the police will not handle it. The embezzler will not pay any more after that. The police will not take that case because you made it a civil case by accepting restitution. The best action by an embezzler is to try to pay a few bucks and make it a civil matter.

JOHNSON: Understanding that we have quite a few stores across the United States, we have to go different ways in different states. As far as the police departments are concerned, we do have sub-stations that are there and available where we provide the computers. We are putting them into our store designs which allows us to build the relationships with the police department - that helps us.

Training key to prevention of shoplifting MODERATOR: If we could talk for a minute about shoplifting, which is probably one of the biggest problems among retailers. What is the cutting edge in terms of prevention of shoplifting?

CHAPMAN: Our first line of defense is that in every store in our chain we have an EAS unit. We do not tag everything in the store, but we tag items that we deem to be highly attractive to shoplifters. We go through extensive training with store staff on how to respond to the alarms if they occur and how to handle situations should they retrieve merchandise that wasn't paid for. We also have a roving team of undercover store detectives that move from location to location. They are sent to locations that are very high-shoplifting-profile store, and their objective is to apprehend as many shoplifters as possible in a two- to three-week time period. Because of the size of our stores, we don't have undercovers for every store, so it is like a shell game. Two weeks in a store. Move on to the next store. Three weeks in this store. Move on to the next store. That seems to be a fairly effective method for us.

MODERATOR: Chris, what do you see as the role of training in the reduction of shoplifting?

HERTIG: I think there are three things. One would be store personnel awareness-type training - being able to get the message out to people who work in the store about how to marry customer service with deterrence. It is interesting when I teach security management, I find myself talking about marketing about half of the time. Another thing would be certainly that management personnel need more awareness. Finally, the actual security personnel need training - a little different type of training, more in depth, more precise, dealing with apprehensions and probable cause and testifying and that sort of thing.

JOHNSON: You need to talk about training with your employees. Use of force is one of the critical issues, especially when it come to the detention of a shoplifter. We want to make sure that person is protected, even though they are a thief. We don't want to violate their rights. One of the most effective deterrents we've seen is if you can walk up to a person in a store while they are just picking things up and get eye contact. Get that interaction. Ask "how are you doing today?" We try to get all of our employees to do that.

MODERATOR: Taking a broader picture and looking back say 20 years before some of these technologies were widespread, what has been the aggregate effect on shoplifting minimization? To what extent has technology minimized the problem of shoplifting?

JOHNSON: When you get to the topic of EAS, there is not an established stardard in the market right now. Whenever they come out with an established standard in EAS with sole source tagging, we won't have to depend on our store directors or store managers or our distribution centers to tag all of the items. At that point it becomes a more effective tool. But if we do use the EAS we need to make sure the people are trained on how to use it. That is going to make it more difficult for some retailers because, when that alarm goes off and they are standing at that front door, how far do we want our employees to go after that person? What is it worth to allow our employee to go out that front door?

LEVENBERG: I think the reality is that years ago we had fewer technologies to deal with shoplifting than we do today. Too many retailers now rely on the technology to address the problem. You are going to deter a certain percentage of the novice shoplifters by installing that equipment, but the effect wears off fairly quickly. The studies have shown that EAS has a dramatic decrease on shrink initially. Then it levels off and may come back up.

CHAPMAN: At our stores, we are able to determine - based on a lot of our undercover officers' data for the last five or six years - what multiplier we can use to determine the real shoplifting loss based on how many empty packages are picked up. You can always multiply the amount of confirmed pilferage times 3.7 to 4 percent. If you pick up $100 worth of empty packages, you probably have $400 worth of shoplifting. But response has to be consistent. The worst thing we have seen is if a person leaving the store rings an alarm and either the store personnel don't even look up or if they do look up, they just wave them through the system. Maybe that person didn't steal, but the two or three other people in the store who watched it happen know it is a free ride.

TERRY: If you are going to use any EAS system, you need to know what the laws are in your state with regard to shoplifting. In Nevada, we have a merchant immunity law that recently changed. Now the merchant has to see a concealment. With an EAS system, if you didn't see them conceal it, you may stop them, but you will not be covered under the merchant immunity law any longer. You better know your state laws because they vary.

The inside job: How to keep employees from stealing MODERATOR: If we can transition to the even bigger problem of employee theft. What new methods are there for dealing with the problem?

JOHNSON: No new ones. Camera systems do wonders. We put them in all of the back rooms and, all of sudden, all of the open cans and boxes disappear.

CHAPMAN: The computer age was supposed to make us paperless ... but it has created more paper than we ever thought was possible. Once we got through the initial flood of data, we can now massage the data and extract exceptions that point to internal theft. The red flags tell us when it might be advantageous to go to a store to install a covert camera. Exception data that flows in through the computer is extremely valuable.

MODERATOR: Do you see new techniques of stealing among employees?

CHAPMAN: Employees are not dumb. You can never assume that they are not going to figure out a new way to steal. No matter how tight your system is, somebody will find a way. It is like water finding a crack. What we have to do is have systems in place to catch it when it happens.

MOE: My field of loss prevention internally is cash, not inventory. Every time you add a new procedure or a new control, it minimizes theft or gives you an audit trail. Often managers and supervisors think it is a panacea and they don't have to pay attention anymore. That is where you run into problems. For every point-of-sale system you put in, the word gets out very quickly among the users of how to defeat it. You have to maintain a continual education process.

LEVENBERG: One major retailer is videotaping every transaction on every register, coupling it to computer exception reports that recall the digital video images to track refunds, voids, no-sales, and all kinds of things.

JOHNSON: The technology has been around for about 10 years, but it is manpower-intensive.

LEVENBERG: The digital recording allows you to have instant recall of the images versus searching videotapes.

JOHNSON: I have been looking at digital imaging for many years. It is not, in my personal opinion, ready yet for my side of the market because it is so costly. When you have 2,600 stores and you need to go out for digital imaging transactions, it is not cost-effective for me.

LEVENBERG: You have to analyze your shrinkage costs versus the costs of these systems and what you can potentially gain.

MODERATOR: The systems are getting better and becoming less expensive all the time. At any time you might get to the point when that are easy to cost-justify.

JOHNSON: It's good technology headed in the right direction. I am liking what I am seeing. It's coming around, but it is still extremely cost-prohibitive at this point.

Criminals raise the bar MODERATOR: If we could get back to the broader focus on society in general. What is the cutting edge of criminal activity? I would like to start with our policeman friend. What new things are happening that we need to be worried about in terms of protecting our businesses against?

MCGILL: The cutting edge is whatever they thought up today because yesterday's scam was defeated. We are always going to be on the catch-up side because, once criminals think of something to do to defeat us, or you, we have to figure out what they are doing.

TERRY: There is a honing of all the old skills. We have had many distracts with booster bags. Two or three or four people come into the store. They are really sophisticated - they have a person outside. They use their headphones and microphones. They communicate with each other. The person outside lets the people in the store know when security is coming, when the clerk is coming. They were recently hitting a children's store very heavily. We got word from one of the other malls about the group. When they were in the store, they called us immediately, and after they dumped the booster bag, it was incredible. It was a very large toy store bag. You could stuff shelves full of children's clothes in these bags. This booster bag - a reinforced shopping bag - has layers of duct tape, plastic, foil and it is real stiff and on the outside it's covered by a large-size toy store bag. If you were to see someone with the bag walk in or out of the mall, you would just think they had a couple of large items from the toy store. In fact it is full of stolen merchandise. When you have people out using earphones and microphones, what are you going to do?

LEVENBERG: Criminals also monitor the loss prevention radio frequencies to know when there is a call, for example, to get somebody in the men's department. One of the trends we have seen - it started in Florida - is a lot of drive-through burglaries. It's not just department stores. We have had them drive through the entrance doors of shopping centers. In Oklahoma City, we had a full-size car drive through the upper level, drove the entire length of the second level of the shopping center and drove into jewelry stores, hit the cases, backed out, drove to another one, drove through the gate and out through the JCPenney store. So we do something to try to defeat them. We put bollards outside of our entry doors. They are also using technology. There is a brazenness to what they are doing. They are unconcerned about video image capturing. They are unconcerned about EAS. They are going to come in. They are going to grab a lot of merchandise and out they go.

MOE: I have heard about eight or ten robberies, in which during the evening after everybody had left the location, they get on the roof and cut a hole in it. They got inside and waited until the opening crew came in and turned the alarm system off and then would drop down to commit the robbery. Now one perpetrator was wearing headphones, so they presume there is somebody outside watching.

LEVENBERG: That happened at Sears in Santa Barbara back in the early 1980s. They came through the roof, waited until the safe was open, had their ladder, came down, robbed the people and left.

JOHNSON: There were three in Florida that happened just like it in 1978.

MCGILL: When it comes out in the news that this was successful, there will always be copycats.The role of the InternetHUNTER: The Internet can play a role . Does anyone monitor the Internet or run searches to look for information that is being distributed?

MODERATOR: Chris, are you familiar with any efforts on the academic side to search Internet sites for possible criminal activity or instructions for "how to."

HERTIG: There is a great deal of furor going on about things on the Internet, particularly bomb making. That's what everybody is upset about. The other thing is the hate groups. There are about 300 sites now, I understand.

MODERATOR: Joe, have you come across anything related to the Internet in your investigations?

MCGILL: The Internet is just a wealth of knowledge for any area you might want to find. I guarantee you that if you punched in a search for "shoplifting," you are going to find it. You are going to find tips. You are going to find if you punch in your EAS system -or the company that makes your system - there is somebody out there that tells you how to defeat that one.

HUNTER: Has any company represented here today been able to use the Internet in a positive manner to communicate among your stores or with different associations?

JOHNSON: We are selling groceries on the Internet in Dallas. Also, we have our own Intranet within Albertson's Corp. We will be sending video images over the Intranet as time goes by and as technology catches up. I am using the Intranet for my access control systems across the United States. I am communicating over TCIP with my panels back to my home office in Boise in a central monitoring station. I use that for security purposes for my office as my regional headquarters and my division offices and my district offices.

TERRY: Our loss prevention association has an address book - an e-mail address book. I maintain the book. They e-mail to me problems they are experiencing, and we will put them out to the address book. "Has anyone else noticed this?" "Can you corroborate that vehicle description?" In Las Vegas it has been fairly effective in getting information out in a timely manner.

LEVENBERG: We have a website on which you can click on your state and it will bring up our company's mall in that area. You can get information on the mall, special sale information, coupons, etc. We are also looking at developing a Web site for our statistical reporting process from all of the malls across the country.

MODERATOR: Crime statistics?

LEVENBERG: Right. Each of our malls gathers statistics on criminal and non-criminal incidents and submits them every month to my office via a third party provider. We are looking at developing a site where they can submit them directly to the Web site.

MOE: The restaurant side has what they call a National Food Service Security Council. It is comprised of about 40 of the major chains. We are setting up a Web site and we will have, behind the firewall, a member's bulletin board and a recent incident listing for various chains to report what is going on.

CHAPMAN: We have an internal e-mail system at every store - direct on-line communications from every store to every store to corporate. We can send out either regional or chain-wide bulletins to all the stores instantly. In addition, we have closed circuit television training in every store. We have a small TV studio at our corporate office and we produce a weekly TV show live - and some of it taped - beamed out directly to the stores and often times it carries loss prevention issues.

The future direction of technology MODERATOR: The Internet is technology. A lot of us are looking to technology to do more because the threats we are facing are escalating. I am wondering Jim if you could give us a thumbnail state-of-the-art - where are we, what technologies are coming on-line soon - that might help some of these problems we are talking about?

HUNTER: From a technology perspective, best practices will be a combination of what's required for different environments. That's true whether you have training, whether you are implementing technology, or whether we are using such things as the Internet. The speed of communication is a key, whether it's instore or communication with law enforcement. How can we get information out there in a much more coherent, quicker fashion in cooperation with law enforcement? We talked about digital video - that is getting better. We'll have to wait to some degree for the technology and for the cost reductions to take place so that it becomes applicable for each of the areas within our respective companies. We are constantly thinking and pushing forward to figure out where the next solution will come from. It is impossible for us to sit here and say this is where, we think, it might be coming from. None of us has enough money to spend from that perspective. We are always in the catch-up mode. Cooperation and communication at every level are needed in addition to the available technology.

MODERATOR: I am wondering what equipment you guys would wish for. If this were Christmas and Santa Claus were bringing you a piece of equipment that would do a job any way you wanted it done - or done in a more effective way - what would the single piece of equipment be?

CHAPMAN: I have seen everything at the ASIS show so far with 1,700 booths set up. I would like to have a piece of much of that. I would like to see a more extensive use of digital, and I would like to have the equipment in every store. But at this point, it is a pricing issue. Probably the single piece of equipment I would choose is a usable CCTV system that is transmittable to other stores. Images are worth a thousand words. I see that coming in the future.

JOHNSON: What I want to see in the future on the security side of the house is standardization so that we can have integration. That is what I want - integration. Every time you think a supplier company is going toward integration, they get scared and go back in a different direction.

MODERATOR: Tie it all together.

TERRY: I tend to agree with him. I like technology, but it is only a tool. I would rather have extra officers.

HUNTER: I have been in this industry for 15 years, and one thing has always puzzled me. I could go around the room right now and ask for everyone's definition of integration. I will probably get a different definition from every person here. It is tough. Ken, when you say integration, I almost felt as if it were related to industry standards. Some of the access control panels you have may be proprietary to a certain manufacturer, but the communication method from point A to point B is using something that we all have access to. Is it integration or is it industry standards or is it still all these? I think if we had industry standards it would allow for the integration you may be looking for.

JOHNSON: The standards have to be set, but when you talk about integration, when I talk about integration, if you choose to do this you should be able to communicate from every device to every device.

MODERATOR: Dick, do you have an item on your wish list?

MOE: I agree with what has been said, particularly about the digital video, but what I am hearing from some people on my side is a need to communicate to the law enforcement side. We are putting in digital systems, but we are finding that law enforcement is not familiar with the technology. It is not compatible with what they have. If I had a wish list I would wish that the law enforcement side get up to the same level of technology as the retail side.

LEVENBERG: I actually have two things on my wish list. One would be a wireless video system that works. There are a million of them out there. >From one end of this room to the other they, work great. You get a wall in between and they don't work. Because in our case, in particular with large facilities, the wiring costs are more than the equipment costs. Secondly, a remote video transmission system via phone lines that's real-time.

The challenge of cost justification MODERATOR: I would like to revisit the subject of cost justification. Is it important to your companies?

LEVENBERG: Obviously, cost is always an issue. In our situation it is a little different because we typically transfer costs to the tenants. Tenants pay common area maintenace (CAM) fees. If we increase our staffing, buy vehicles or whatever, the cost is paid by the tenants.We are conscious of the cost of doing business. They look at pennies per square foot of increased CAM, and that means we can or cannot do certain things. We really have to justify the benefit.

JOHNSON: The cost justification is fairly easy for us because of the lawsuits and the litigation we have been involved in. Less shrink is payback. It is the way we cost-justify our cameras and our security systems. The technology helps us tremendously on the slip-and-falls. We save two slip-and-falls in the store and we have paid for the camera system.

CHAPMAN: To cost-justify equipment, you just have to evaluate. You just can't make a blanket decision that affects 4,000 stores. To cost-justify, you have to do some trial balloons. You have pick out a selection of representative stores, run a test to see if it is actually cost effective to integrate certain equipment chain-wide.

We asked our panelists what mistakes they have made in the last year, and what they learned from the mistakes. Here are their responses:

CHAPMAN: Not fully utilizing the amount of data out there to extrapolate theft patterns. I learned to massage the numbers down to where they really had some meaning for us. We were able to point at red flags.

TERRY: Our lack of a better training program. We need to do a better job of teaching about the laws of the state: What is a felony? What is a misdemeanor? You can act on a misdemeanor in your presence, but not out of your presence, and a felony you can act on.

MCGILL: Not making the contacts with the people I need to in the different areas of retail here in town. My biggest failure and my biggest successes go hand in hand; my successes are the contacts I have made.

LEVENBERG: Believing what one of our vendors told us about their product and service without completely investigating whe-ther they could uphold their salesmanship. The lesson learned was obviously to talk to people who utilize different equipment, different companies for services, get their experience. Do they uphold what they say they are going to do for you?

MOE: As a consultant, I don't make mistakes. My clients do.

We asked our panelists what triumphs they have attained in the last year. Here are their responses:

JOHNSON: Our prog-ress in putting access control and camera systems in all of our distribution centers. It is supported by our senior management, which is a plus for the loss prevention and security department. The security de-partment has been broken away from loss prevention for the most part, and I opened up the first UL fire alarm monitoring station in the state of Idaho. My people do good work.

TERRY: The advancements that we have made with the Retail Loss Prevention Asso-ciation. I have seen it go from four years ago where we barely had six people to where we now have a coherent group, we have a charter and we have our tax deferred status, we are finally making some headway. I have seen it grow in leaps and bounds and a lot more participation from a variety of retailers.

CHAPMAN: Our success in many of our tough areas in bringing the shrinkage down. The proof of the pudding is on the bottom line.

MOE: Helping clients who did not have a security exposure get into the mainstream of loss prevention and security.

LEVENBERG: Implementation of litigation avoidance training within our company particularly when it comes to general liability claims, slip-and-falls and so forth. We have seen tremendous success in terms of a reduction in our costs and we like to attribute part of it to that training that we are giving all of our officers.

HUNTER: Hosting this roundtable today. I think it has certainly been beneficial for me and it will be for the other employees of Mosler and also, hopefully, for the rest of the industry.

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