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ORC targets Thin Mints, Nutella and what else?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

I had an informative talk with Mark Doyle the other day about the annual retail theft survey his loss prevention/shrink reduction consultant firm, Jack L. Hayes International, recently released. You can read about that here.

But here’s more from our conversation.

Professional shoplifters, or organized retail crime boosters, whatever you may call them, usually focus on a specific item, Doyle said. We’ve all heard about ORC thefts of baby formula, Tide laundry detergent and other popular goods that sell well on the black market, but what Doyle told me? Interesting, to say the least.

“We were talking to a gang a number of years ago, and we asked them, ‘What do you specialize in?’ And they specialized in paintbrushes. Jack [Hayes] and I just looked at each other, like ‘What the heck?’ And we kind of started laughing, and the guy was ticked and said, ‘Have you looked at the price of paintbrushes lately?’

“So, the next time we went into a hardware store we went to where the paintbrushes were, and sure enough” the most expensive brushes were missing. They sell them to contractors,” he said.

Now, Doyle said, every time he goes into a Lowe’s, Home Depot or Ace Hardware, he goes to look “just out of habit” in the paintbrush aisle. “Sometimes the two pegs are stripped of all the expensive ones,” he said. He doesn’t know if they were stolen or pulled for security reasons, but said he’s seen no postings advising customers that if they want one of the expensive brushes they should contact an associate.

Other recent hot commodities, in the food and beverage genre, according to the Summer 2013 Hayes Report:

  • Thin Mints. A truck driver stole $19,000 worth of the favorite Girl Scout cookie from a warehouse.
  • Maple syrup. Four men stole 16 million barrels of the sweet, gooey stuff, worth about $18 million, in Quebec.
  • Soup. A Florida man made off with a cargo of Campbell’s soup worth $75,000.
  • Nutella. Five-and-a-half tons of Nutella valued at $20,710 was taken from a parked trailer truck.
  • Raw beef. In Florida, someone stole a full truckload of meat valued at $250,000.
  • Chicken wings. Two men from Georgia were arrested for stealing $65,000 in chicken wings.






Gun news—from crackdown success to missing and stolen …

Monday, July 1, 2013

Lots of news out there lately about guns. Here are three of the highlights:

1. A recently released study from Sam Houston State University found a concentrated Houston Police Department crackdown on illegal gun possession resulted in a significant reduction in subsequent crimes involving firearms.

“These findings add to the growing evidence that supports the use of directed patrols to target illegal gun possession in high crime locations,” wrote William Wells, co-author of the study. “An interesting phenomenon observed in Houston and in other cities is that relatively small numbers of additional gun seizures [and gun possession arrests in the current analysis] generate meaningful results.

The award-winning study looked at the Houston department’s Crime Reduction Unit.  You can read more about it here.

2. Meanwhile, the Office of the Inspector General, U.S. Department of the Interior, just released its review of the U.S. Park Police, finding that the organization could not account for more than 1,400 of its weapons.

“The accompanying report provides ample evidence that USPP's firearms management requires immediate attention to address the multitude of problems we found, which ranged from fundamental errors in recordkeeping to glaring nonfeasance by senior command officers,” Mary L. Kendall, deputy inspector general, wrote to Jonathan B. Jarvis, director of the National Park Service, and Teresa Chambers, chief of the USPP.

“We initially set out to determine if USPP could account for all military-style weapons in its inventory, whether USPP had intentionally concealed missing weapons, and whether officers used USPP weapons for their personal use. Our efforts to definitely address the allegations were hindered by a failure of the USPP property and firearms custodians to provide a baseline inventory and accounting of firearms. We found credible evidence of conditions that would allow for theft and misuse of firearms, and the ability to conceal the fact if weapons were missing,” Kendall continued in her [pretty much] scathing memo. Twenty recommendations were provided and the department was given a 45-day deadline to respond. You can view the memo and the report here.

3. That report came on the heels of an ATF report that found that more than 190,000 firearms were reported lost or stolen in the United States last year. President Obama ordered the first-ever audit in the wake of the Newtown school shootings last year. Of the 190,000 figure, 183,660 were stolen, up from 145,300 in 2010, reported in a review from the Bureau of Justice Statistics National Crime Victims Survey, according to an article from USA Today. That survey found that firearm thefts have been on the decline. The ATF report said its findings “likely reveal only a fraction of the problem,” because of underreporting.


A purpose for cockroaches? Think biobots

Friday, June 28, 2013

As a former Florida resident, I know all about cockroaches. Here’s what I know: They’re Nasty, and no, that uppercase N is not a typo. I’ll spare you my cucaracha horror stories, because the story below is more interesting.

North Carolina State University researchers have something positive in mind for these icky, albeit hardy, insects. They are using video-game technology to track how the roaches respond to remote control. Their hope is they’ll discover ways the bugs can be used in search-and-rescue missions at disaster sites.

I’m not kidding, I read about this on the Homeland Security News Wire.

The researchers are using Kinect to remotely control the cockroaches, track their progress and collect data on how to steer them more precisely, the report said.

“We want to build on this program, incorporating mapping and radio frequency techniques that will allow us to use a small group of cockroaches to explore and map disaster sites,” Dr. Alper Bozkurt, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering and co-author of a paper on the project, said in the report. “The autopilot program would control the roaches, sending them on the most efficient routes to provide rescuers with a comprehensive view of the situation.”

“The roaches would also be equipped with sensors, such as microphones, to detect survivors in collapsed buildings or other disaster areas,” the report said. “We may even be able to attach small speakers, which would allow rescuers to communicate with anyone who is trapped,” Bozkurt is quoted as saying in the report.

The paper is titled Kinect-based System for Automated Control of Terrestrial Insect Biobots. You can view a video here.

Military transitioning into private security: What's your take?

Monday, June 24, 2013

I had an interesting discussion last week with Jeffrey Hawkins. Strategic initiatives manager for American Military University, Hawkins will moderate a panel at the fall ASIS conference on “Transitioning from the Military or Law Enforcement into the Private Security Sector.”

Many think any person with a military background makes him or her a perfect fit for private security. The ASIS Foundation, in fact, has scholarships for active-duty personnel who want to gain certifications. Guard companies have been especially open to hiring ex-military.

But Hawkins, whose university’s 100,000 students worldwide are 58 percent active-military, had some great points, which can be seen here. A veteran who worked protection detail? That’s great. A career soldier who worked in the mess hall? Um, not so much.

Security Director News has written about this previously.

A number of our “20 under 40” winners last year have military backgrounds and they are stellar professionals. I’m sure a fair amount of the outstanding nominees we get for this year’s awards will have military backgrounds as well.

What is your experience? Were you military? Did you hire someone from a military background? I’d like to know for a future article for Security Director News. Any input is greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.


'20 under 40' nomination time!

Friday, June 21, 2013

I had a great time at the TechSec Solutions conference this past February in Fort Lauderdale. It seems like it was just yesterday, but we here at Security Director News are now gearing up for the 2014 event, to be held in January in Delray Beach, Fla.

Last year was my first TechSec experience, my first time helping to choose the “20 under 40” award winners, and my first time meeting a dozen of them in person after interviewing each of the 20 via phone. I was so impressed by their professionalism and dedication to the physical security field. You should be, too.

Now it’s time for new nominations and new winners.

I’ve reached out to last year’s class of winners, asking them to pay it forward to nominate any of their young(er) colleagues, and they’ve responded enthusiastically. I can’t wait to see who they think is worthy of this award and why.

I’d like to hear from you, too. These young men and women truly have voices that need to be heard. From their emerging technology know-how to their thoughts on strategies to physically secure their businesses, they represent the future of the industry. Nominate them here.

Thank you!


Bring-your-own-bags: A boon for shoplifters?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Are bans on single-use bags aiding shoplifters?

It would seem so, according to a provocative article from the Austin (Texas) American-Statesman.

For environmental reasons, Austin banned single-use bags as of March 1 of this year. Customers are now required to bring their own bags to stores. Retailers and police said in the article that, because of the ban, it is now more difficult to tell the difference between legitimate customers and shoplifters.

“We’re getting a new type of offender that is taking advantage of the system,” Austin Police Officer David Silva, who worked off-duty in March at a local Walmart, said in the article.

Before the ban, someone leaving the store with unbagged items would be suspect, but it happens more frequently now as some customers forget to bring their own bags.

The article said that the Texas Retailers Association, which sued the city of Austin over the bag ban in February, has no hard data about increased thefts in the wake of the measure. In other cities, such as Brownsville, Texas, and Seattle, however, increased theft has been attributed to similar bans.

What’s your experience? Does this come down to a contest between being green and effective LP? I’m interested. Let me know. I'd like to look into this further.



Pittsburgh Pirates cave; NFL boosts its measures

Friday, June 14, 2013

PNC Park in Pittsburgh, home of Major League Baseball’s Pirates, decided to use metal-detecting wands on all entering fans following a review of stadium security procedures after the Boston Marathon bombings.

Officials announced the security change this past Monday, but the next night, at a game against the San Francisco Giants, they gave up. As gate lines grew longer and longer and the game was under way, waiting fans became more and more disgruntled. Security personnel were told to put their wands away.

Pirates President Frank Coonelly later apologized to fans, saying “We stopped the wanding procedure at the start of the game and were able to clear the lines at the gates by the end of the first inning,” according to a report in the Pittsburg Post-Gazette.

MLB doesn’t require metal detectors at its venues, but it soon plans to review its security practices, the report said.

Meanwhile, the National Football League announced this week new security measures at its stadiums for the upcoming 2013 season. Fans will be required to carry in their belongings only in small purses, gallon-sized freezer bags or other clear bags no bigger than 12 inches. Coolers, backpacks, camera bags, briefcases, computer bags and purses larger than clutch-size are among the newly banned items. Medically necessary items will be allowed, as will cameras, binoculars and smart phones.

The NFL stadium-security upgrades were recently approved by team owners. Similar measures have worked well at colleges, including Penn State, Michigan and Michigan State, which do not permit any bags in their stadiums, officials said, according to a report from

C’mon, sports fans. Just get to the game early and deal—for security’s sake. It’s the way of the world. Been to an airport recently? I truly don’t want to hear about a bombing or shooting at a professional sports event. Pirates, shame on you.

What do you think of these disparate approaches?

More on (beleagured) Y-12 complex

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

OAK RIDGE, Tenn.—Cameras and sensors have been repaired or replaced and more security patrolmen are on the job, along with additional staffing at the central alarm station at the Y-12 National Security Complex since last July’s security breach.

Efforts also are being made, here, to reduce the false and nuisance alarm rate at the facility, which houses bomb-grade uranium, according to a report from Oak Ridge

The Y-12 security update came to light because of another, albeit less serious, breach this month, on June 6. Early that morning, a 62-year-old woman, looking for an apartment, mistakenly followed a line of traffic to the complex and was waved through the main entrance by security officers. She drove around the complex a bit before being stopped when she tried to exit. Federal officials said Y-12 security failed to follow proper procedure. Three security police officers and one supervisor have been suspended as a result.

The Y-12 security update, requested and obtained by Oak Ridge Today in the wake of that incident, said the complex has “carefully examined the circumstances" that led to last year’s July 28 break-in by three elderly protesters, including a nun. The trio cut through perimeter fences and splashed blood and paint and otherwise vandalized the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility.

The three anti-nuclear protesters were found guilty on two federal charges last month and will remain in jail until their sentencing in September

“Y-12 … is applying the lessons learned to our security posture and operations,” the security update said, according to the news report. “These actions included adding key leadership personnel, restoring to service critical security elements and refining alarm system components to enhance reliability.”

The security update said all the Perimeter Intrusion Detection and Assessment System, or PIDAS, cameras at Y-12 were replaced, and extra concertina wire was  installed to fully enclose all critical areas. Also, retired Brig. Gen. Rod Johnson was brought in from B&W Pantex to assume responsibility for Y-12’s Safeguards, Security and Emergency Services, the report said.


Santa Monica shooting details emerge

Monday, June 10, 2013

John Zawahri, the 23-year-old man accused of killing five people and wounding others in Santa Monica June 7 before being shot and killed by police, had a history of mental illness when he was a juvenile and grew up in an abusive home, news reports say.

The investigation continues, but it appears so far that Zawahri first got into a dispute at his father’s home, which was burning. The bodies of his father and brother were later found in the house.

Zawahri, dressed in black with an ammunition belt around his waist and carrying an AR-15 assault rifle and a duffel bag with as much as 1,800 rounds of ammunition, then allegedly carjacked a car and its female driver and had her drive him to Santa Monica. College. He fired indiscriminately into traffic on the way, news reports said. Once at the college, he shot five people; all died of their injuries.

Police say they don’t know why Zawahri wanted to go to the campus, but emphasized that this was “not a school shooting.” Nor, they said, do they know of Zawahri having any “extremist” philosophies.

The shootings forced President Obama, who was appearing at a Democratic fund-raiser about three miles away, to change his travel plans. He had been scheduled to take a helicopter to the Los Angeles airport, but instead drove by car with his security detail.

Security at the U.S. Open

Friday, June 7, 2013

Maybe Tiger Woods will make up for his shabby performance last month at the Memorial Tournament at next week's U.S. Open, or maybe he won't. Who knows? What we do know is that strict security measures will be in place for the tournament at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa.

"There will be metal-detection screening, similar to what you experience at airport security," Deputy Chief John Viola of the Haverford Township Police Department, who is overseeing the law-enforcement operations, told ESPN. "This screening process is designed to prevent spectators from bringing prohibited items onto the championship grounds. Our goal is to assure that everyone has a safe and an enjoyable experience at the U.S. Open."

Spectators will be prohibited from bringing cell phones, PDAs and tablets, cameras, bags larger than 8 inches square, chairs, step-stools and stepladders on to the course.

"We encourage all spectators to review the list of prohibited items and secure those items in a safe place or leave them at home," Viola told ESPN.