Retail Security Arrests: COVID-19

Tony Security 1 Comment

Why we have to change our approach for the sake of safety

This will be a very short post put together on a break this morning and based on a question I’ve had into the page. The question was around the subject of ‘ should retail security staff be wearing gloves and a mask when arresting shoplifters during the COVID-19 outbreak?’ My response was simple. Why are you till arresting shoplifters and do your company know you are doing it?

Have I gone mad?

Why would a security consultant be advising security staff not to arrest shoplifters? The answer should be straightforward. Right now, I cant see any possible way that a company could risk assess this activity as safe. With social distancing and hand hygiene being the buzz words of the month,and probably the next few months, then I cant see how a company would want, could ask or should expect a security officer to make an arrest for theft. I know many will have already acted upon this and communicated this to clients but for those that haven’t I really do think you should be looking at it straight away.

Why not?

Some points:

  • Retail outlets (and I’m specifically referring to grocery here) are crazy busy and security staff are working under high levels of stress with long hours and busy stores. Stress=potential mistakes and mistakes= €€€€.
  • The role of retail security is loss prevention and risk reduction. Assessing and reducing the risk of loss. Arrest is an emergency response to this after all other options have failed anyway. Also, at this moment in time from a risk perspective, stock loss from theft is very low down on any retail risk register. Crowd safety and hygiene are far bigger concerns.
  • Making an arrest carries an inherent risk of physical contact and an absolute risk of not being able to maintain social distancing throughout.
  • Bringing a person back into a store for a period of time in an enclosed holding room has an unavoidable risk of infection.
  • Security staff undertaking an arrest will spend a disproportionate amount of time off the floor and not dealing with the major risks in store.
  • The people aren’t likely to prosecuted anyway and you will be very lucky to get Gardaí to respond in an adequate time frame.

What should we be doing?

  • What should be happening is that we are focusing even more on what we should be doing. Deterrence and prevention. Visible presence and overt interaction and engagement with customers at entry points and throughout the store.
  • Anybody operating as a store detective should be put in uniform
  • Implementing capacity controls at entrances to ensure that security are in a position to monitor and engage with people at the entrance and can see whats happening in the stores.
  • CCTV operators observing suspicious activity deploying uniform staff as a deterrent instead of monitoring.
  • Communicating clearly with the client as to the new process and reasons for it.
  • Where we have to do so then we should be recovering the goods outside of the store and passing details to Gardaí later.


Like I said many security companies will have already taken this step. Some will not have. If you haven’t then I suggest you take a look at your processes today and consider implementing changes today.

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  1. Pingback: Diary of a Security Consultant-10 | The security operative

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