With over 90% of retailers impacted by organized retail crime last year, it’s no surprise that retailers have found their relationships with law enforcement personnel to be more valuable than ever. Armed with an information sharing program and a Chief of Police committed to working with retailers to get the job done, one shining example of a partnership between retailers and law enforcement that has a proven track record for success (I’d say apprehending criminals responsible for more than $1 million in retail theft is a success) is being led by the Albuquerque Police Department.
Albuquerque Police Department Chief Ray Schultz, who will speak at a session at NRF’s Loss Prevention Conference next month about how retailers and law enforcement can work together to solve crime, took some time to highlight why it can be difficult for retailers to sell law enforcement on organized retail crime, discuss how the economy is impacting police departments, and give tips retailers can implement today to deter theft.
You’ve done a lot of work on the issue of property crime versus retail crime in Albuquerque and across New Mexico. What’s the difference?
The public can relate easier to property crime because they know it as burglary, auto theft, larceny etc… organized retail theft (ORT) is viewed by the general public as not their problem since the victims are usually big-box retailers, and these retailers often get little sympathy from the public. Now that we are linking the offenders of ORT to other property crimes that the same offenders are committing, the community can clearly see the link between the two, and are now becoming more supportive of our ORT crime initiatives.
Albuquerque’s Safe City program has helped police identify and arrest offenders who have committed more that $1 million worth of retail theft. Talk about the role the Albuquerque Retail Assets Protection Association plays in this.
ARAPA is a unique partnership between retailers and police officers at the operational level. Both bring information about on-going criminal activity to the table on a real-time basis. Both have pieces of a puzzle that when they are put together are linking and solving crimes that would otherwise never be cleared.
How has the perception of retail law enforcement changed among local police department officials?
Prior to ARAPA and the partnerships being developed, many officers were leery of loss prevention professionals and often stereotyped them as want-to-be’s.
What has been the biggest success story since ARAPA launched in June 2006?
The successes are countless. The most unique is how retail LP officers are now working hand and hand with police officers on a daily basis to solve crime. Not only do they work on the front end in identifying offenders, but also work together at the back end as well; we accomplish this by seeing both LP professionals and officers sitting in a courtroom together at sentencing, which is very rewarding.
The department has also seen massive success in profiling offenders in paid advertisements in newspapers and billboards through Crime Stopper tips – resulting in more than 50 arrests by tips called in by members of the community. Why do you think the community is so actively engaged in this program?
The community is tired of being “ripped off” and the ads allow them to do something. They just post the ads in their businesses or call in information on people that they know.
I’ve read that ARAPA efforts have become so successful, retail crime has been displaced to surrounding communities – other law enforcement agencies are coming back to Albuquerque and saying, “How come we’re getting all your criminals?” Is there any type of statewide initiative in the works to help other communities dealing with this issue?
We are displacing a significant number of criminals and are working with surrounding jurisdictions and sharing information on new emerging trends, suspect information and now our wanted posters. We recently hosted a regional ORT Summit and had over 300 attendees.
At NRF’s Loss Prevention Conference, you’ll be speaking on community policing. Give us a preview: what’s the first step in building a local partnership between retailers and law enforcement?
The first step is buy-in from the leaders of both law enforcement and retail. Just telling staff that we want to work together is not enough. It takes a total commitment and top to bottom buy-in or you will not be successful. By working together we share resources and become more effective in fighting crime.
How has the economic downturn impacted how local law enforcement divisions operate?
The economy has hurt law enforcement when it comes to ORT because many government leaders think that it is not a law enforcement problem. Many believe that retailers have their own security staff, that retail theft is their problem and that they should deal with it. Plus, it is not very glamorous to arrest a “shoplifter”; politicians want armed robbers and burglars on the front page of the paper not a petty thief.
What is the most common mistake retailers make that can lead to targeted retail theft?
The most common mistake is not involving law enforcement in your apprehensions. We need to be involved to help in “connecting the dots” for your suspect and his/her criminal activities on your property, and to link the offender to other crimes that he may be involved in. We have found that often the person first arrested by LP personnel is apart of a larger organization and is involved in a host of other crimes.
Give us three tips that retailers can implement today that deter property theft.
1) Prosecute everyone.
2) Share suspect and trend information with law enforcement and your competitors.
3) Train your entire staff – not just LP personnel – that they need to be vigilant in stopping ORT.