Organised retail crime in Australia is costing businesses billions of dollars each year. In fact, $15 million is taken from stores across the country every day. Since the pandemic, incidents of retail theft are on the rise, increasing by an extraordinary 42% in events per store from repeat offenders in the past year.
Unlike impromptu theft or unplanned shoplifting committed by people with minimal forethought, organised retail crime involves preparation, intentional selection of retail targets, and extensive coordination between a network of perpetrators.
While this calculated crime leads to a significant loss of product, as well as results in the need for shops to increase prices for loyal customers, the most concerning trend with organised crime is the increase in threatening and violent behaviour towards retail staff. The risk of an employee getting hurt from interacting with a shoplifter is far more concerning than the loss of product.
While it may seem daunting to protect against this sophisticated crime, there is a very effective tool to do just that – retail crime reporting.
Report the incidents
Organised retail crime is increasing globally, but it has been a big problem for decades. That’s why Auror was founded 11 years ago, as there was no unified platform to report retail crime, meaning repeat offenders were able to continue their crimes undetected.
It is estimated less than 20% of retail crimes are reported to the police in Australia. Retailers tend to handle incidents internally, using their own often disjointed and time-consuming reporting methods, including pen and paper, spreadsheets, or a call to police to take a report.
When retailers have to document details of theft manually, the process often takes time and resources away from assisting customers, inventory and managing staff. That’s why we worked with retailers globally to understand the pain points they experienced in order to create a streamlined reporting system, which is now used by some of the biggest retailers in the world.
Reporting is essential in identifying organised crime as it enables the ability to track activity, share intelligence with police and ultimately stop the perpetrators. It’s not only important for identifying recurring trends, but deterring criminals.
The majority of organised retail crime is profit-motivated and ultimately comes down to risk vs reward. Criminal networks are going to commit crimes that maximise their potential reward relative to minimised perceived risk. With an obvious disconnect between rising retail crime rates and the number of reported crimes, retailers need to actively report incidents occurring within their stores. If crimes go unreported, the risk vs reward for the offender tilts in favour of reward.
In cases of threatening and violent behaviour, retailers train their employees to avoid confrontation and conflict. Prolific shoplifters know this, so again, it reduces the risk of getting prosecuted. How can individuals posing a threat to retail staff be prosecuted if the incident isn’t reported?
Identifying the 10%
Organised crime accounts for a significant portion of the problem. In fact, 60% of retail crime offences are caused by the same 10% of repeat offenders. Isolated shoplifting incidents are by no means not a problem, but the major challenge facing retailers is organised retail crime. This poses the question, how would a retailer know if an individual shoplifting from their store was a piece in a bigger puzzle?
Historically, stores have operated within their own silo, meaning besides the regular shoplifters they are confronted with, they are largely unaware of offenders who are going from store to store, across cities, even across borders, stealing the most. This system results in the 10% of prolific shoplifters facing a reduced risk of being caught.
More importantly, while only 1 in 10 shoplifters are repeat offenders, they account for more than half of all serious events and are four times more likely to be violent or aggressive towards retail team members and customers.
Connecting the dots
The ability to identify the people who are causing the most damage can greatly improve safety for teams and customers, on top of helping decrease retail crime and profit loss. When information about retail crime is collected and stored as isolated incidents, the full picture of what’s really happening with the same few people committing crimes is missed.
Introducing reporting technology can empower retailers to do more with the information reported about crime incidents, by connecting the dots between repeat offenders and crime events. Auror’s platform makes it easy for retailers to see patterns of offending, combined with real-time alerts, to help prevent potential theft events by identifying those. For example, since implementing the platform three years ago, when using New Zealand homeware retailer Briscoe Group saw a 50% reduction in loss.
While the task at hand of reducing crime may seem too big to tackle, implementing an effective reporting system is a step any retail business can take to make a significant difference in reversing this rising trend and keeping their employees safe.
Andrew Kouimanis is vice president of partnerships and innovation at Auror Australia.