Over the next few months I’m starting a new thread of articles. Similar to what I’ve done before with Role of the Door Supervisor and Security Operative Basics I’m going to focus on more advanced skills of a security operative. In this weeks article I want to talk about theft detection models specifically related to retail security. Whether you prefer ASCEND, SCONE or ASCONE the principles are the same. Over the next few paragraphs I want talk about the merits of each and why I prefer ASCONE. I’ll also discuss why each part is important in the overall model.
There are lots out there. The 3 most common are probably ASCEND, SCONE and ASCONE. The table below shows the component of each. People will have their own preferences and sometimes the model you use will be dictated by your employer. Whichever you choose to use make sure you know it inside out. Know it’s advantages and most importantly it’s disadvantages and what can go wrong.
Why ASCONE ?
While no model is perfect I think the ASCONE model is overall the model that covers most requirements. It has the advantage over SCONE of including the Approach element which is essential in theft cases to ensure that the complete act has been witnessed. It also has the advantage over ASCEND method as it emphasises the Observation element which is critical in preventing false arrests. I also didn’t like the Detain element of ASCEND firstly because it implies that All dectections should result in a detention (instead of the range of options avaialble to the security operative) and secondly because it implies detention (not arrest) which is incorrect.
ASCONE isn’t perfect however. No model is perfect regardless of the subject. Models can guide and structure procedures but it is just a model. There will be situations where it just isn’t suitable. There are also situations where the model is present and completed but a theft has not occurred.
Person A shops in store and buys a product. They continue to shop and put the previously bought product on a shelf. They walk away and forget the item. A few minutes later they remember the product and rushes back to get it. This rush attracts the attention of the security operative who sees the person go to the shelf, pick up the item and put it in a bag. They then walk past the cash register and leave while being observed by security. The entire model is present as far as security is concerned. I would like to think that a good security operative could read the body language and demaenaour of the person and assess that despite the presence of the model no arrest is required.
Another situation where the models fail is when dealing with staff theft. In this context the theft may occur despite the model not being completed. For example, a staff member who takes cash from a till and puts it into his/her pocket. The theft is complete once this happens in this case despite not even half of the model have been seen.
I’m not saying that the models aren’t good or that they don’t work. It is just important to realise that as security operatives we have to expand our knowledge and training beyond relying on just a model like ASCONE to do our jobs.
The model explained
Like I mentioned above it is essential that the security operatives understand each stage of the model and why they are individually and collectively important. To understand the model, it is important to understand what the model seeks to achieve. The ASCONE model seeks to show that the actions witnessed fit the definition of the crime of theft. The crime of theft has been discussed in detail in previous articles, so I won’t go into too much detail here except to give the legal definition
“a person is guilty of theft if he or she dishonestly appropriates property without the consent of its owner and with the intention of depriving its owner of it.”
Each of the steps seeks to meet specific parts of this definition and surrounding legislation
The subject must be seen to approach the area containing the goods. The goods pre-exist in the area. This shows that the goods belong to another ‘owner’ ie. the store. It also goes to show what is known as ‘mens rea’ (a guilty mind) on the part of the subject. By entering the area where the goods are known to be it can be inferred that the subject knew the goods belonged to the store.
Witnessing the actual selection of the goods from the shelf or stand show appropriation. The subject has appropriated or taken the goods from the owner. Of course this is in itself not a crime as the person by picking up the goods may wish to buy them. It does however show the appropriation of the item from the owner’s possession.
The concealment of the item shows a number of things. It again supports the ‘mens rea’ principle. It begins to establish dishonesty and it shows the beginning of an intention to deprive the owner of the property. After all it is not the normal behaviour of a shopper to conceal goods for purchase.
The observation of the act from start to finish is essential. Firstly to show that we have witnessed the crime in its entirety without the opportunity for the subject to have ceased the crime by discarding the object back to its owner. Secondly it is important for continuity of evidence in the event that a security operative has to give evidence of the crime in court.
This is pretty simple. Not paying for the item shows dishonesty
The exit part is important. Leaving the store shows not only the final act of dishonesty but also shows the intention to deprive the owner of the goods. This is why I don’t like the theory sometimes put out there that the person commits theft once they pass the last point of purchased. This is a risky proposition in that they have not completed a dishonest act by depriving the owner of the goods until they take them away from the owner’s premises.
As you can see above each of the elements has an important individual part to play in the model. However, they are ineffective without the entire model being met. Understanding each element must then feed into an overall understanding on the entire process and the reasoning behind it.
Theft detection models are good. They have their place in training new staff and providing a framework for security procedures. They aren’t the entire picture however. They can replace in depth knowledge or experience, they can only compliment it. They must be used as part of an security operative’s overall skill set to reduce losses. Theft detection is only one part of the overall strategy. Knowing what to do when it happens is another article altogether.