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Fight vs. shoplifters goes high-tech

BY MONTY PHAN
STAFF WRITER

January 16, 2005 - From the casino-type "eye in the sky" to "source tagging," retailers are turning to ever-improving methods of combating the old five-fingered discount.

Digital video recording devices and radio-frequency emitters are among the new technologies helping retailers as they try to decrease shoplifting, which results in an estimated tens of billions of dollars a year in losses.

Some of the most common security systems employ a mix of cameras and so-called electronic article surveillance, or the tags you may find on clothing or DVDs, retail security experts said. For example, more are using closed-circuit TV systems, the inconspicuous ceiling "bubbles" casinos are famous for employing, said Dave Shoemaker, group vice president of strategic marketing for New Jersey-based Checkpoint Systems, a retail security technology provider.

Over the years, retailers also have migrated from analog video surveillance systems (think tape cassettes) to digital video. Shoemaker said the systems can detect movement and switch to high resolution, allowing a user to zoom in. "Virtually nothing goes without being spotted," Shoemaker said.

Florida-based ADT, which owns anti-theft company Sensormatic, has a system that allows a regional headquarters to access digital video surveillance networks at their stores, narrowing down hours of footage to the 10 or 15 seconds showing a shoplifting, said Lee Pernice, retail marketing manager. Home Depot spokesman Don Harrison said the chain's digital closed-circuit system has made "a world of difference over analog in terms of clarity and speed."

A 2002 national retail security survey conducted by the University of Florida showed retailers most often used burglar alarms to stop theft, followed by visible closed-circuit TVs. About half said they used digital video recording, and 42 percent said they employed security tags.

A common practice is source tagging, where manufacturers attach tracking tags to products before they reach stores, saving retailers from installing them. Although not widespread, radio frequency identification, the technology that E-ZPass uses, would revolutionize how stores track inventory, experts said.

For smaller retailers, there are more familiar options: gates that beep, monitors that show what's happening around the store.

"Most of the time, the anti-theft technologies deployed in retail are visible because they're looking more for the deterrent aspect than to catch a thief," ADT's Pernice said.

Cracking down

Some of the approaches retailers report using most often to stop theft

Burglar alarms 94.4%
Visible closed-circuit TV 73.3
Check approval systems 61.9
Armored car pickups 56.8
Cables, locks, chains 51.7
Hidden TV / Digital video recording 50.8
Observation mirrors 49.2
Data software 49.2
Secured display fixtures 48.3
Drop safes 46.6
Mystery shoppers 45.8
Electronic security tags 42.4
Anti-shoplifting signs 41.5
Uniformed guards 37.3
Ink/dye denial tags 36.4
Silent alarms 32.2

SOURCES: 2002 NATIONAL RETAIL SECURITY SURVEY; UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA


Security guard held on suspicion of robbing motorists

March 26th, 2005 - REEDLEY, Calif. A Reedley security guard is being held on suspicion of pulling over motorists, flashing his badge and robbing them.

Monico Romero is being held on 175-thousand-dollars bond in the Fresno County Jail.

Romero is accused of robbing motorists during the past six months along Highway 99 and Highway 41.

The Fresno County sheriff's office says Romero never told victims he was a police officer, but he wore his dark-blue security guard uniform with a gun belt and a badge.


Shoplifting Suspect Allegedly Steals Florida Deputy's SUV

DESTIN, Fla. - April 3, 2005 - He was handcuffed in the back seat, with his seat belt fastened, but somehow, a shoplifting suspect managed to steal a sheriff's deputy's SUV and lead police on a high-speed chase in Destin, Fla., Saturday.

Scott Graves, 33, was arrested earlier for allegedly shoplifting. Deputies said he was able to remove the Plexiglas barrier between the front and back seats of the deputy's Ford Expedition and took off.

The Walton County Sheriff's Office said he led deputies on a high-speed chase before he abandoned the vehicle. They say he then struck and robbed a person in a Taco Bell parking lot and tried to steal a car in a nearby parking lot. Eventually, a man subdued him until deputies arrived to arrest him.


Task force to take close look at abuse
Focus: Domestic-violence deaths

William Hermann
The Arizona Republic
Apr. 20, 2006 - Those who work the closest with domestic-violence cases are trying to find a way to put an end to the state's most common crime.

Thanks to a 2005 law that allows state, city and county agencies to create domestic- violence-related fatality review groups, officials will take apart two cases to investigate every aspect surrounding a death, including whether the victim had previously reported abuse, what actions were taken and what consequences were first given to the suspect.

Their hope is to improve a system that deals with thousands of cases each year. Phoenix's Family Advocacy Center is coordinating what will be the first of a series of studies.

"We want our study to help ensure that victims of domestic violence who died did not die in vain," said Ginger Spencer, who heads the advocacy center. "We want to learn from the cases we investigate, and we want to improve the system."

Domestic violence is the most widespread crime in Arizona. In Phoenix, more than 50,000 calls to 911 made to police every year are about domestic violence. About 10 percent of homicides in Arizona in any year are related to domestic violence. For instance, of the 234 homicides in Phoenix in 2004, 12 percent, or 28, involved domestic violence.

Domestic violence for many years was a crime hidden by victims' shame, but during the past decade it has become a priority of state, county and city officials.

"What we most want to know is what could have prevented this death," said Spencer's management assistant, Libby Bissa, who is chairing the investigative team. "Was there something the system could have done? Is there something, some service, we need to put in place that can be better accessed?"

The team will include representatives from Phoenix police, City Prosecutor's Office, Public Defender's Office, Municipal Court and Fire Department. Bissa said the team's reports would be forwarded to the Arizona Attorney General's Office.

Officials have made some progress on domestic-violence front. Ten years ago, Mesa police established the Center Against Family Violence, a single location where victims could get a medical exam, meet with a detective and get victim services under one roof.

The center has assisted more than 100,000 victims and family members, but, more important, it has become a model for similar centers in Phoenix and Yavapai and Pinal counties.

But police, counselors and probation officers say the system still fails victims of domestic violence.

Surveillance and probation officers are assigned to keep tabs on the offenders, but they often strike again.

"The number of times a domestic-violence offender will hurt someone again is up there; the rate of recidivism is high," said Saul Schoon of the Maricopa County Adult Probation Domestic Violence Unit. "This is a very difficult crime to stop."

Plans still are in the works for how best to compile statewide data and translate it into changes in the system.

"The best thing that could happen is that we prevent even one homicide, just by having the knowledge level that we didn't have before about the dynamics of these situations," Bissa said.

 

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