This is an article which expands on a Facebook post I wrote just over a year ago now. The reason why I’m expanding on the point is because I unfortunately still see retail security operatives being injured, injuring somebody else or getting themselves in hot water with employers for failing to properly risk assess situations.
A common discussion I have with retail security officers is how they always feel the need to make the arrest when they witness a potential shoplifter. Anyone who has been through my retail security training module will have heard the phrase “I win ” repeated over and over. My principle has always been that a great retail security/ loss prevention officer is one who is aware that they get to choose how to win. You get to define what is a ‘win’ and you get to decide how you achieve your win.
Its your ‘win’
Your definition of a win will depend on your experience, your instructions and the individual situation. It will also depend on your attitude. For many new security operatives, a win will simply be getting through a situation safely. For others, it will be resolving the situation to a ‘satisfactory’ conclusion in keeping with safety, assignment instructions and common sense. For others, they really need to look like the superhero in every situation. That’s their win and they need it. They generally get hurt quickly or else they get somebody else hurt.
My point is that in every situation you have choices.
Let’s take a basic scenario.
A man walks into a department store and begins acting in a way that my experience tells me isn’t right. At this point I have a variety of options and tools at my disposal and traditional arrest procedure is only one. Being aware that I have a range of tools is a single part of the solution. Choosing the right tool is the key to success.
Let’s look at a few of the options available:
1. I make my presence known visually to the person and deter a potential theft- ” I win”. It’s not going to make me a superhero but I win. I’m safe, everybody else is safe and the stock is retained so I’m happy.
2. I ask a staff member to go and ask the person if they require assistance and deter a potential theft. – “I win”. Again, I’m not the superhero and I have to assess how safe it is before sending a staff member into the situation. However, customer service is a proven strategy for preventing potential theft in retail and it works so ‘I win’.
Let’s say the person doesn’t get the message and conceals items in their bag. I still have options.
3. I get on my radio and stand by the doorway in view of the person and deter a potential theft- “I win”. No need to explain again the value of deterrence. Obviously, this will only be effective in a certain percentage of cases but it’s an option and shouldn’t be ruled out.
This guy is not getting the message though and he exits the store without paying
4. I follow the male outside and make a standard arrest. Detain the male outside the store and await assistance or the Gardaí. – “I win”. Again, everybody is safe and the goods are recovered. Took a little more effort and a little more risk than options 1,2 or 3 but that has been dictated by the other persons behaviour and response. In the end though I got the win.
5. I follow the man outside and make a standard arrest. Detain the man and return to the store to recover the goods and await Gardaí – “I win”. Slightly different twist on Option 4 here in that I’m bringing the person back inside the store as opposed to keeping them outside. Some will argue this should always be the case as its safer, but it isn’t always. Bear in mind we are now returning to a confined space and the risk to customers in the shop is also increased now. Still it’s an option (a good one in much of cases) and it’s a win for me.
The person walks outside and meets up with their 2-large angry looking friends. Not looking good for me but I still have options.
6. I contact the Gardaí with a description, maybe follow at a safe distance if my employer allows, while on the phone to Gardaí and await their arrival. -“I win”. Of course, I’m reliant on a variety of factors being in my favour here and there is a much-increased risk here in comparison to options 1 through 5. Your actions are now being dictated by the other person and the level of control I have in the situation has decreased and I would think we are looking at a damage limitation exercise now. It’s still a better option than attempting to arrest the person while in a group of 3. It’s difficult to look like a superhero while unemployed in a hospital bed.
I decide it isn’t safe to arrest the male . He leaves. I return to the store and retain the CCTV footage. “I lose, right? “
Wrong. I still have options
7. I pass on his details to Gardaí and have them investigate- “I win”.
8. The next time the man enters my store I ask him to leave as I have the right to refuse admission. – “I win”
9. The next time the man enters the store I start all the way back at Option 1 and eventually – “I win”.
The Superhero response
Now the superheroes are going crazy at options 7-9 here. I’ll bring you back to my statement at the beginning. You get to define what a win is. I would suggest that your criteria start with;
a. Am I safe
b. Is everybody else safe
c. Are the goods recovered
The more of these you can answer with a yes, the more successful you have been. The argument that the store management will probably get rid of you for letting the goods go doesn’t wash any more. Stores are much more aware of the risks of making arrests and most would much prefer to see options 1-4 being used every time there’s an incident. Those who aren’t yet will soon be pressurised by insurance companies and best practice guidance to begin moving in that direction.
Of course, the onus is on the individual security operative to make a judgment call in each situation but I suggest you begin to look at the table of options outlined above as a starting point.
A good retail security/loss prevention operative knows that the job is not just about arrests. It’s about service, deterrence, reducing losses, safety and common sense. Most of all it’s about providing value for money and using all the tools at your disposal to the job as professionally as you can.