A number of security issues plague retailers and shopping centres. Prevalent amongst these is financial and reputational loss as well as injury (and even death) of customers and staff as a result of violent crime. Added to this is the investment in security measures (technology and guarding) that retailers and shopping centres are obliged to make. Finally, the legal liability of stakeholders, specifically with respect to health and safety aspects, can often overshadow the typical security issues faced.
James Oosthuizen of the Consumer Goods Council Risk Initiative (CGCRI) says that typically, retailers and shopping centres would need to lay out large amounts of cash on CCTV surveillance cameras and recorders and in providing a visible, well-trained guarding component. Others costs derive from the placing of security tags on items, together with RFID readers at doorways.
The cost of both the technology and human capital are however in great part offset by the reduction in the losses of goods and cash, as they are able to provide valuable assistance with criminal investigations. In addition, surveillance footage can be used to check the credibility of customer or employee claims regarding the health and safety liability of retailers or shopping centres.
Oosthuizen says that retailers, property management companies and shopping centres spend millions of Rands on the proactive measures necessary to reduce crime, with specific emphasis on the detection and prevention of violent crime. This attitude towards crime prevention has gained momentum since 2001, when the Consumer Goods Council launched the Consumer Goods Crime Risk Initiative (CGCRI).
Today, the initiative boasts a membership of 1200, which includes the major retail chains, major manufacturers, distributors and service providers, shopping centre owners and management, and jewellery retailers through the Diamond Dealers Club and the Jewellery Council, as well as selected clothing retailers.
Collaboration is a vital component of the success of any crime busting initiative and the CGCRI plays a critical role in facilitating a collective forum of the major stakeholders. Oosthuizen explains that one of the primary goals of the Initiative is to reduce crime by the active sharing of important information on previously committed crimes. In this way, trends can be established and counter measures can be applied.
The original forum comprised the CEOs of the major retail stores and the mandate was driven by the common consensus that information on crime must be a non-competitive issue. In other words, participating forum members were not expected to divulge sensitive information regarding their business operations, but rather to pool data gathered on crime modus operandi, trends, identifying areas of higher risk, the type of goods being stolen and the places where the crimes were being committed.
Not only is the initiative a cooperative forum between retailers and shopping centres, but similarly it shares information and video clips with the SAPS and other industries, allowing patterns and trends and data on known syndicates to be uncovered. The offshoot to this collective forum is that best practice in terms of security measures can be derived, to the benefit of the stakeholders as well as consumers.
Risk assessments form an important part of the whole process, to ensure that good security housekeeping is initiated in stores and shopping centres. This role is generally handled by dedicated risk executives or loss control managers, and in some instances by operational managers or directors. It is an ongoing process, with risks changing depending on different products, different times, different modus operandi and different syndicates. Flexibility and tenacity in approach is therefore necessary and risk managers are often required to visit numerous stores and locations to ensure that all elements are accounted for.
Oosthuizen cautions that crime syndicates generally target those employees who are in positions of trust. Preventing collusion of employees with syndicates is a difficult and sensitive issue but pre-employment verification checks and regular polygraph and/or integrity testing do assist in reducing the risk.
On a final note, Oosthuizen says that one can never share too much information with regard to crime prevention. The CGCRI prides itself on its ability to facilitate the integration of the stakeholders and encourages them to recognise the benefits of working collectively and collaboratively to fight crime. He adds that the CGCRI would also like to see involvement from more shopping centres and property managers, as crime is just as pressing an issue for them as for the retailers.
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