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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.



DHS warns of surgically implanted bombs. Pistole: 'We can't eliminate that risk'

Thursday, July 7, 2011

After all the hullabaloo over full-body x-ray machines being invasive, it turns out they may not be invasive enough. The Department of Homeland Security recently announced that Al Qaeda operatives in Yemen recently discussed surgically implanting an explosive device under the skin of a suicide bomber to get past airport detectors and blow up a U.S.-bound passenger plane, a U.S. official said Wednesday, according to this article in the Los Angeles Times.

While there is no evidence of an actual plot, the government has issued warnings to airports and stepped up security. My question is: How? How is it possible for TSA to possibly screen for this? The LA Times article suggests increasing the number of bomb-sniffing dogs as well as how many passengers are screened for explosive materials, but other than running people through x-ray machines, there's really no way to check for internal bombs.

Even John Pistole knows the TSA doesn't have the ability to do such internal screens. According to this article on

He was asked whether "current technology" could detect an explosive "in a body cavity," he said no. "If they do a body cavity bomb, we're not going to detect that," he told USA Today. "We can't eliminate that risk." Yesterday, the vice president of Rapiscan Systems, which makes the backscatter machines used in U.S. airports, agreed. The machines, he explained, are "designed to detect threats on the body, not in the body."

Basically, we're banking on the fact that it's not easy to surgically implant bombs in someone and even if it is implanted, hopefully something else will tip off screeners, like visible discomfort or stress from, you know, carrying a fricken bomb inside your body. I personally think the TSA should be training all of its officers in behavior detection skills so they can better identify suspicious people. And do we need a better reason to step up training than the prospect of people boarding planes with bombs in the bodies? I can't think of one either.

After assault, hotel says it will provide housekeepers with panic buttons

Thursday, June 2, 2011

It has not been a good month for hotel housekeepers. Two high-profile assaults on housekeepers in the last month has prompted discussion about how hotels can better protect their staff.

The first incident took place on May 14 at the Sofitel Hotel, where Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the then-leader of the International Monetary Fund, has been accused of assaulting a maid on May 14, reported The New York Times. And on May 29, Mahmoud Abdel Salam Omar, a businessman and former chairman of a major Egyptian bank, allegedly attacked at housekeeper at The Pierre Hotel in New York, reported the Huffington Post.

"The problem of hotel maids being inappropriately groped or propositioned has been known for a long time," said Rory Lancman, a New York state assemblyman from Queens. "They need to have as much protection as possible, and that means equipment and that means policies that protect them."

Lancman, who heads the assembly's subcommittee on workplace issues, filed a bill last month that would require hotels to give single-button alert devices to any employees who regularly enter guest rooms. The Hotel Association of New York City, which represents about 200 hotel owners, said it was studying the proposal.

The union said it will call for such devices as part of its contract negotiations with 150 hotels next year, and a state legislator has proposed a bill requiring the devices statewide.

However, as all security professionals know, there's no single solution to a problem. Training is obviously an important component. In the most recent assault, the hotel waited 15 hours to report the incident and we know that can't be their policy. I'm a personal fan of defense classes and think that approach can never hurt. In terms of the technology, the article also notes that it's important for these devices to be small and inconspicuous so that an assailant cannot remove them easily. They also must include a locating device that works indoors so security guards can find an employee in trouble.

Do you know of any hotels who are deploying such a system? Has it been effective?

Is it necessary to provide security officers with additional training?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

By Kevin Lee, retired United States Marine Corps officer and former employee at Wackenhut Security and Initial Security

A category most overlooked within security companies today is the amount and type of training that each individual officer receives. That is not to say officers aren't being trained in one form or another or that they're not receiving the right training, but what must be addressed is the need for specific training for particular job sites.

Why should there be any further instruction if officers have experience or have completed the required training? For starters, it's necessary to ensure that officers are knowledgeable about specific considerations requested by the client. They must also have a grasp of any safety concerns and an understanding of any pertinent laws and/or ordinances that may impact their duties. Officers must also know how to respond in situations that aren't covered by instructions or post orders.

In most cases, a client will have some request regarding how they want a security officer to perform their duties. Either upper or lower management should not take this lightly. This request by the client should be taught to the new officer, even if the officer is experienced and has been working with the company for many years. Even if the officer has worked at that location before, he or she should still attend the required training for that job location because there is always a possibility that policy, procedures or even ownership has changed.

Especially if an officer is stationed at a factory, industrial plant, chemical warehouse, or petroleum refinery, it will be imperative (and probably mandated by the Occupational Safety and Health Agency) for them to receive some type of “awareness” training. There are some states that may have the same or stricter requirements and management must research this. In these locations, an officer will need to know what to do if there is a chemical spill, gas release or any other type of hazardous situation. The officer will need to know what the client company’s standard operating procedure states, and know how to read a material safety data sheet and know who to call. Any non-compliance in these matters could not only cause the client to be fined, but the security company as well.

Knowledge of safety is not limited to just factories and plants, but also at places such as office buildings. Every different company or corporation will have its own safety rules, regulations and policies and this could involve everything from cleaning supply (chemicals), storage, electrical wiring, and fire alarm procedures (especially in high-rise buildings).

Also, it must be known if there are any local, state or federal laws concerning a security officer’s duties. A good example is if a security officer is posted at a county vehicle lot or a municipal airport, the officer should be trained on all local ordinances and regulations for these locations. Since 9/11, most airports have laws about unattended vehicles at pick-up and drop-off areas. If the officer is on some type of federal property or the security company has a contract with the federal government, the officers will need to know what the federal law stipulates for that environment.

There may come a time when the officer has to deal with a problem or situation that is not covered in the post orders or in any training session. Then he or she needs to know whom to contact and how to contact them and what type of communication is available and how to use it. Is it a radio with different channel frequencies? Is it a company phone that will only allow calls within the building? These situations need to be taught to the officer. Even something as trivial as this could lead to to larger problem, and all because no supervisor or trainer took time to inform a new officer of a small procedure. They also need to understand that just because they never received any extra instructions on a certain matter, that does not mean they should ignore it. They need to take the initiative and contact a supervisor or responsible person and report the incident.

As all training is the responsibility of the leaders, whether it is supervisors or managers, many of them do not think additional training is necessary and many choose to stay within company guidelines or government laws. So when a corporate inspector or government auditor reviews the records, and everything looks good on paper, that is all that's been accomplished - just looking good on record. This attitude definitely shows no willingness on the part of to make security officers better informed and trained. The better trained the officer is, the better the employee is at work. A productive officer will show results and these results have a positive image for the client. Remember, a happy client will be more likely to renew the contract when the time comes, than an unhappy client would. Think of it as a “chain reaction” that is good for everyone involved. To go that “extra mile” in any situation shows initiative and that's something that is often lacking in many companies and job sites these days!

Kevin Lee is retired from the United States Marine Corps with twenty years of active duty. He has worked for security companies such as Wackenhut Security and Initial Security and is presently employed by the Transportation Security Administration.

What LP can do to make it a happy (and profitable) holiday season for all

Thursday, September 16, 2010

By Eric White, Wren Security

Each year as the holiday season approaches, retailers prepare for the exciting prospect of profitability as well as the challenge of managing merchandise, event and customer overload.  While every holiday season requires special attention, loss prevention managers must predict how the latest trends and the economy will dictate the types of risks most prevalent this holiday season.  Here are three of the top trends we see now and how they will impact LP’s job this Christmas.

Trend: Money’s still tight

While retailers have a reason to be optimistic that the worst is over, the economy is still on the rocks. While expectations for holiday spend have not yet been released, NRF’s Back-to-School and Back-to-College Trends 2010 report shows consumers are still holding onto their money. The bottom line: While the worst of the Great Recession may be over, times are still tight and there’s no margin for error.

Response: Guard every penny

LP must protect merchandise from the moment it is delivered until it is purchased by the customer. This is forever LP’s challenge, but can be a particularly daunting task during the holidays when the volume of merchandise in and out of the store is much greater, promotions run non-stop throughout the season, and staff is stretched thin.

First, LP should ensure any losses in received goods are noted immediately upon delivery. Shrink in the supply chain is very common – some loss may be due to damage, theft of goods by individuals who touch it along the way, or the result of an unintentional miscount. LP should put processes and resources in place to systematically check in shipments to ensure proper items were received, in good condition, in the correct amounts. Any damaged or missing product should be noted on the invoice and signed off on by the driver. This is an early opportunity to stop shrink on holiday merchandise.

Once merchandise is received, it should go directly to the shelf. Because the nature of merchandise build-up is to have enough on hand for escalating demand, a large amount should be carefully marked and stored. Moving overstock from the storage area to the sales floor is critically important, especially if trailers or off-site storage units are necessary. As the season passes, merchandise will be marked down to sell. Merchandise should, whenever possible, be marked down on the floor as opposed to discounts being assigned at the point of sale. This process takes more time, but items properly bar-coded and price-marked on the floor are more likely to be handled correctly by cashiers. With excellent processes in place, LP can avoid much of the administrative shrink that can negatively impact profitability.

Trend: Safety is top-of-mind

Particularly in light of the legal battle that is unfolding between Walmart and OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), safety is top-of-mind this holiday season. With these two debating and setting precedent regarding who is responsible for safety oversight and how much effort is enough, retailers have a particularly heightened awareness of the risks associated with retail special events like Black Friday.

Response: Plan and protect

LP professionals should make it a point to get “in the loop” early regarding the number, type and timing of special holiday events being planned. With advance notice, LP can more effectively plan for these events, preparing strategy, communications, allocating resources, and even notifying local law enforcement to ensure a safe event. LP managers should look at elements such as crowd control, resource allocation, diffusing competitive situations, maintaining emergency plans, and building contingency plans. Good and frequent communication is the golden rule prior to and during every event.

Trend: Lots of available help

Unemployment in the U.S. is still high, meaning lots of people will be available for part-time and temporary retail positions. But seasonal hiring can be a tricky business: It’s easy to do, but difficult to do well. Retailers’ processes can make the situation worse by failing to screen candidates with the same rigor used to hire full-time, permanent employees. Without the proper training, guidance and oversight, these temporary employees can either knowingly or unintentionally cause losses throughout the holiday season.

Response: Hire the right way

LP managers can help reduce losses by ensuring that retailers stick to their complete employee verification processes including preemptive screening, background checks and reference checks. Once temporary employees have been hired, training is essential. Another best practice is to assign temporary help in areas where they have least access to systems and cash, such as greeters, or shelf stockers. More experienced employees who are familiar with the POS system and the store’s merchandise and policies are less likely to inadvertently cause shrink.

With some forethought and best practices in place, LP can help deliver a safe and profitable holiday season.

Eric White serves as director of retail strategy for Wren, providers of physical security solutions used by some of the world’s most innovative and respected retailers including Walmart, The Home Depot and Target.  White has 20 years of experience in loss prevention, asset protection and physical security.  White can be reached at  To learn more about Wren’s solutions, visit  

Should security officers be better trained?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Training is important for any job, but when it comes to security officers, a high level of training is an absolute must. Like me, I know many of you in the security field cringe when movies like Paul Blart: Mall Cop come out, reinforcing the stereotype that security officers are incompetent. There are many security folks out there who are working to make sure that this isn't the reality, but the rent-a-cop image is a hard one to dispel.

And there are plenty of reasons for that to exist. First of all, security officers are historically poorly paid, which results in a high level of turnover. We all know training is expensive and security companies or corporations don't want to make that investment knowing, chances are, those individuals are likely to soon move on. There is also a lot of talk about the importance of professionalizing the security industry (here's what one security director from a major hospital has to say about that). In my quick assessment, I would say paying security better and offering more training that demonstrates a clear path for advancement would be a good start.

I just found this Web site,, an organization that wants higher standards in the security industry, fighting for better working conditions so we can reduce turnover and keep experienced officers on the job. We're also standing up for adequate staffing levels, proper equipment, and rigorous training--so that we can do our jobs to the best of our ability and respond to--and prevent--emergency situations.

This organization claims that there are more than one million private security officers in America today, which is double the number of police officers. When it comes to training, the organization says that half of all U.S. states lack any training requirement for security officers, but by contrast all 50 states require about 1,500 hours of training to become a licensed cosmetologist. I haven't confirmed those numbers, but I would believe it. Granted, I want my hairstylist to be proficient with a pair of scissors, but, more importantly, I want the security officer in the bank to be proficient with his or her gun (or Taser).

But what do you think? What needs to happen in order for security officers to have more status. Remember that video footage from the Seattle transit system showing security officers standing by and watching as a young girl was beaten? The worst part of that incident (other than the obvious bodily harm to the victim) was the false sense of security that it conveyed to the general public. When I see someone in a security uniform, I figure they are there to protect me. I know they're not the police, but I assume that officer has enough training and authority to stop someone from hurting me. Sadly, that's not always the case. We'll never get away from Paul Blart with policies and evidence like that.

Transit officials react to video of officers standing by as girl gets beaten


SEATTLE—The release of video footage showing a 15-year-old girl being beaten in front of three security officers in the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel on Jan. 28 has spurred both public and industry scrutiny. The video shows three officers allowing the attack to occur, literally at their feet, claiming later that they were unable to intervene due to policy and liability restrictions.

How effective security training positively impacts organizational culture

Friday, August 22, 2008

Chris Hedenskog, a candidate for a Master’s Degree in Organizational Security Management at the University of Denver, sent this paper that examines the positive impact an ongoing security training program has on an organizations culture. Addressing how the information age has changed the world of security, this paper will explain why this training is necessary for the security industry to keep pace with the increasing level of threats to an organizations assets. Using the latest research, an explanation of how to design an effective training program is discussed. An explanation of how a training program can be used to motivate employees, and develop successful teams will be discussed. The benefits of which will clearly demonstrate how an ongoing and effective training program positively impacts and organizations culture.

Chris has been employed with the Federal Bureau of Prisons in the Inmate Systems Management field for 11 years. While working with the Bureau of Prisons, he served as a training officer. And previous to the Bureau, he was a training supervisor at UPS for five years, and prior to that, served in the Army in combat operations.

“How effective security training positively impacts organizational culture”
As organizations strive to find ways to positively impact their culture, investing in an effective security training program is one of the best ways to accomplish this task. The benefits associated with an ongoing and effective training program are numerous. In discussing the benefits a training program offers an organization, Author Elaine Biech in an article, Four Reasons to Invest in Training states, “ it attracts talent, it keeps you competitive, saves you money, and foster’s buy-in. (Biech 1). All significant contributions to an organization striving to compete in a global marketplace. An ongoing training program is of particular importance to the security industry. As Johnson states, “All human beings and their organizations have a fundamental need and goal: security.” (Johnson, 4). Without a safe and secure work environment, “ productivity decreases, and stress levels increase. (Johnson, 5). This basic function security provides an organization has been challenged dramatically with the rise of the information age. As global competitiveness increases, “more aggressive competitive intelligence gathering developed.” (Kovacich, Halibozek, 59). This is a difficult issue to manage since, “the connectivity of the internet has made the concept of borders and jurisdictions and incredible challenge in combating this problem.” (Nasheri, 1). Technological advances have increased the threats to an organizations assets in four ways, “ anonymity, security (or insecurity), privacy (or the lack of it), and globalization.“ (Nasheri 32). As technology advances, organizations must commit to an ongoing and effective security training program to protect their assets against these increasing threats.

Motivating Employees
There are many ways to motivate employees, but “perhaps the most important thing is recognizing that positive motivation does not just happen.” (Forsyth 22). Creating motivated people, “ requires continuous consideration and action.” (Forsyth 22). The foundation needs to be based on positive attributes.
In an interview, author Steven Covey discusses five essential elements to achieve this goal. First, employers must create an environment where employees are empowered to advance their skills to be equal with their opportunities. Next, it is essential to encourage informal and formal training inside and outside of the organization. Coaching and mentoring programs must be established to encourage employees and show the organization cares about their development. Leaders are crucial as role models, they must foster a learning environment and create opportunities that encourages employees to constantly learn and improve. The last step deals with rewards, achievement must be celebrated in the organization, this leads to encouragement for the employees. (Covey 1). Adding to the value of the last step, Forsyth states, “ perhaps nothing is more important than a feeling of achievement: nothing except that achievement being recognized.” (22). An effective training program provides employees the motivation to learn, the coaching and mentoring programs needed to promote their achievement, and the means to recognize employees achievements. Ultimately leading to a positive impact on the organizations culture.

Developing successful teams
Organizations are always looking for ways to increase output. Which is why developing successful teams has become increasingly important as, “ teams are being introduced worldwide as a means to increase productivity, quality, and employee job satisfaction.” (Robbins 305). The development of successful teams requires an effective and ongoing training program to develop the common characteristics necessary to achieve success. To develop these successful characteristics, an ongoing training program relies on decades of research in areas such as: roles, norms, cohesiveness, size and composition. (Robbins 306-11).
It is necessary to understand the dynamics associated with these characteristics for teams to be successful. For example, does the size of a group make a difference? The answer is yes. Research indicates, “smaller groups are faster at completing tasks then larger ones.” (Robbins 309). However, if the goal of the group is related to problem solving, “larger groups consistently get better marks than their smaller counterparts.” (Robbins 310). Understanding the complexities associates with team achievement requires a dedication from the organization to an ongoing training program. The research in this area is vast, however, failing to understand the complexities involved in team oriented work are doomed to failure. The necessity of this ongoing training program is increasingly important in today’s world of mergers and acquisitions across the globe.
Kovacich and Halibozek state, “security needs to be an active member of the merger and acquisition team.. from the start of due diligence effort right through the integration of the newly acquired or merged business, security has a role.” (111). The complex issues surrounding teams separated by geography, culture, and language barriers establishes the need for an effective training program.
Research indicates, “although teams that are large, virtual, diverse, and composed of highly educated specialists are increasingly crucial with challenging projects, those same four characteristics make it hard to get anything done.…… the models for teams need to be realigned with the demands of the current business environment.” (Gratten, Erickson 1). Understanding the complexities associated with integrating teams in this changing environment is essential for security to provide the services required by the organization. The training program must effectively address the barriers associated with these complex teams. Gratten and Erickson state in, 8 Ways to Build Collaborative Teams, the following elements necessary for success:
1: Investing in signature relationship practices
2: Modeling collaborative behavior: executives set the tone.
3: Creating a gift culture: mentoring and coaching.
4: Ensuring the requisite skills
5: Supporting a strong sense of community
6: Assigning team leaders that are both task-and relationship-oriented
7: Building on heritage relationships: meaning place at least a few people who know each other on teams.
8: Understanding role clarity and task ambiguity. (Gratten, Erickson 1).

Team building exercises
For organizations, implementing a team concept is not without challenges a “substantial barrier is individual resistance.” (Robbins 328). For teams to succeed, “individuals must be able to communicate openly and honestly, to confront differences and resolve conflicts, and to sublimate personal goals for the good of the team.” (Robbins 328). Robbins suggests, “selection, training, and rewards” as the primary options managers have when reshaping individuals into team player. Organizations must rework their training programs to focusing on team aspects to be successful. (Robbins 328). When conducting team building exercises, Miller suggests in, Quick Activities to Improve your Team, seven steps team trainers must follow to be successful:
1: Select a good activity for your team
2: Prepare for your team building activity
3: Explain the team building activity to your team
4: Check for understanding before beginning
5: Run the activity
6: Debrief the activity
7: Reinforce the learning back on the job.( Miller 28-32).
An organization will face it’s most difficult challenges in creating team players when, “ the national culture is highly individualistic, and the teams are being introduced into an established organization that has historically valued individual achievement. “ (Robbins 328). To overcome these barriers, executives must commit the organization to the team concept, and lead by example.

When organizations establish an effective training program, that program will motivate employees and build successful teams. The success generated from increased moral, and teamwork will positively impact the organizations culture, and by extension, increase its competitive advantage. On the flip-side, without an effective training program, organizations will be unsuccessful in their attempts to turn individuals into team players, and the opposite will occur. Employees will become less motivated, teams will be unsuccessful in accomplishing their goals and the impact on the organizations culture will be negative, the consequences of which could be drastic.
The role of the executive team, in this process, cannot be understated. Leading by example and fully committing the organization to this approach is paramount to the success of this, and all programs the organization undertakes. With teams being introduced worldwide, the importance of sustaining this team environment is crucial to success. Without training being an ongoing process this approach will fail. A successful and effective security training program is designed to achieve high performing results and make the transition from individual performers to team players successful.
One of the primary goals in developing any training program is to ensure that the training and the desired results are linked.” (Johnson 187). In the global marketplace, “ mergers and acquisitions are a fact of life.” (Kovacich and Halibozek 109). Security is a major player in determining the success of that process. Providing the training necessary to work with diverse people, cultures, and environments is crucial to their success.
In addition, as technological advances continue, “ training is necessary to fill in the skill-gap.” (Johnson, 172). An effective and ongoing training program is essential for security to keep pace with the changing world. Through proper design, based on the latest research, this training program will motivate employees, develop successful teams, and positively impact the organizations culture.

Biech, E. 2007. Four Reasons to Invest in Training. Nonprofit World. Vol. 25, Iss. 6, p30-30.
Covey, S. R. 2007. The Power of One, Training, Vol. 44, Iss. 9, p72-72.
Forsyth, P. 2006. Motivating Your Staff [positive staff motivation]. Engineering Management, Vol. 16, Iss. 1, p22-23.
Gratton, L. Erickson. T. J., 2007. 8 Ways to Build Collaborative Teams. Harvard Business Review. Vol. 85, Iss. 11.
Johnson, B., R. 2005. Principles of Security Management. New Jersey: Pearson/Prentice Hall.
Kovacich, G. L., Halibozek, E. P., 2003. The Manager’s Handbook For Corporate Security: Establishing And Managing A Successful Assets Protection Program. Burlington, MA: Butterworth-Heinemann.
Miller, B. C. 2007. Quick Activities to Improve Your Team. Journal for Quality & Participation. Vol. 30, Iss. 3, p28-32.
Nasheri, H. 2005. Economic Espionage And Industrial Spying. NY: Cambridge University Press.
Robbins, S. P. 2000. Managing Today! 2.0 Edition. New Jersey: Prentice- Hall.