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To Catch a Thief

Richard HollingerThis article was originally published in the March 2005 issue of CLASnotes.

Do you ever get tired of outgoing sales associates cheerfully greeting you when you enter a store and then following you around, interfering with your browsing, constantly asking if they can assist you? Well, they are not always out to make a sale or earn a commission, but rather to keep you from shoplifting.

“They try to overwhelm you with good customer service,” says Criminology Professor Richard Hollinger. “The main purpose, of course, is to see if you can be helped. But the more subtle, underlying reason is to let you know if you are a shoplifter you have been seen, we know you are in the store, so please leave if you’re interested in stealing from us.”

Hollinger directs the Security Research Project in the Department of Criminology, Law and Society, and is a leading expert in loss prevention. The project is best known for its annual National Retail Security Survey, which for the past 14 years has polled the vice presidents of security and loss prevention at all the major retail department stores, discount chains, specialty stores, pharmacies and major grocery stores in the US. The survey receives regular funding each year from Sensormatic/ADT, a major manufacturer of electronic security tags and home security, as well as from the National Retail Federation and ASIS International, a professional association of security officers. Individual retailers also support the program from time to time.

 

In an industry that loses more than $30 billion a year to theft, the yearly assessment has become a way to identify the best practices for preventing loss. “Retailers nationwide lose about $15 billion a year due to employee theft, $10 billion to shoplifting and the rest to vendor fraud and administrative error,” Hollinger says. “None of the property crimes people worry about, such as convenience store theft, bank robberies and household burglary, even come close to these numbers. And compounding the problem is that we all pay for this loss in terms of higher prices.”

In October 2002, Consumer Reports published a story, “The Crime Tax,” highlighting the results from the National Retail Security Survey and proposing that the cost of merchandise would go down if the problem could be controlled. Hollinger says one of the best ways to combat theft is to hire honest employees, keep them as long as possible, and pay them equitably.

“You have to have a very dedicated and alert sales staff, which helps both prevent shoplifting and employee theft,” he says. “A dedicated employee doesn’t have a grudge against the employer so they are less likely to steal. They also are most willing to challenge and counteract shoplifters.”

Hollinger, who earned his PhD in sociology from the University of Minnesota in 1979, first became interested in loss prevention in high school, while working at a grocery store with a rampant level of employee theft and shoplifting. “At this particular grocery store, it was fairly normal to ‘graze,’ or eat your way around the store. Everyone did it, and when I asked if it was wrong I was told no, that it was a fringe benefit. I later found out the manager was stealing whole cartons of merchandise and reselling it and the head casher was embezzling. So it was a den of thieves.”

According to the 2003 survey, the furniture market has the highest rate of employee theft, followed by liquor/wine/beer and cards/gifts/novelties. The markets with the lowest employee theft were camera/photography and auto parts/tires. In contrast, the markets with the highest percentage of loss due to shoplifting were specialty apparel and men/women/children’s apparel. Furniture had the lowest percentage of shoplifting loss, followed by camera/photography and liquor/wine/beer. Graduate student Lynn Langton and Hollinger are presently conducting the 2004 survey.

The Security Research Project also recently completed a shopping center security project and a study of pharmacists who use and steal drugs. In February, a paper Hollinger wrote about a project in which he observed shoplifters in an Atlanta area drug store was published in Justice Quarterly, entitled “Who Actually Steals.” Graduate student Rich Asbell is working on a project, Shopping While Black, which examines racial profiling and harassment in retail stores.

Hollinger says thieves generally have just one thing in common. “Most think they are going to get caught the first time they steal, then they think they may be caught the second time. By the third time they think they are never going to be caught.”

—Buffy Lockette

Grants through the Division of Sponsored Research

December 2004 Total: $2,975,773

October 2004: Total $2,975,773

BAMIA A A

AFRICAN & ASIAN LANGUAGES

U S DEPT OF EDUCATION

$3,000

COLLOQUIAL ARABIC, PART OF THE GLOBAL STUDIES RESEARCH AND CURRICULUM

DERMOTT S F

ASTRONOMY

NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION

$7,000

HOST INSTITUTIONAL ALLOWANCE

GONZALEZ A H SARAJEDINI A

ASTRONOMY

SPACE TELESCOPE SCIENCE INST NASA

$18,606

DARK MATTER CONSTRAINTS FROM THE MERGING CLUSTER 1E0657-56

EYLER J R

CHEMISTRY

FLORIDA STATE UNIVERSITY NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION

$13,532

DISSERTATION ENHANCEMENT ACTIVITIES OF MR. JOSE VALLE FOR THE FALL SEMESTER

KATRITZKY A R

CHEMISTRY

EXXONMOBIL CORPORATION RESEARCH & ENGINEERING COMPANY

$24,503

JOINT RESEARCH INTO CHEMICAL ASPECTS OF PETROLEUM

KATRITZKY A R

CHEMISTRY

EXXONMOBIL CORPORATION RESEARCH & ENGINEERING COMPANY

$16,150

JOINT RESEARCH INTO CHEMICAL ASPECTS OF PETROLEUM (AMENDMENT NO. 1 TO AGREEMENT #57821)

KATRITZKY A R

CHEMISTRY

MULTIPLE COMPANIES

$1,288

SOFTWARE RESEARCH SUPPORT

KATRITZKY A R

CHEMISTRY

MULTIPLE COMPANIES

$360

MILES COMPOUND CONTRACT

KATRITZKY A R

CHEMISTRY

MULTIPLE COMPANIES

$1,263

MILES COMPOUND CONTRACT

KATRITZKY A R

CHEMISTRY

MULTIPLE COMPANIES

$451

SOFTWARE RESEARCH SUPPORT

KATRITZKY A R

CHEMISTRY

MULTIPLE COMPANIES

$312

MILES COMPOUND CONTRACT

KATRITZKY A R

CHEMISTRY

MULTIPLE COMPANIES

$794

MILES COMPOUND CONTRACT

KATRITZKY A R

CHEMISTRY

MULTIPLE COMPANIES

$414

MILES COMPOUND CONTRACT

KRAUSE J L

CHEMISTRY

U S DEPT OF ENERGY CHICAGO OPERATIONS OFFICE

$95,476

MOLEDULAR- AND NANO-WIRES: PROPERTIES AND CONTROL

MARTIN C R

CHEMISTRY

BROADLEY-JAMES CORPORATION NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION

$117,832

PHASE II: MINIATURE REFERENCE ELECTRODE WITH AN INVARIANT LIQUID JUNCTION POTENTIAL

MCELWEE-WHITE L A

CHEMISTRY

NASA J H GLENN RESEARCH CENTER

$80,744

IMPROVED CATALYSIS FOR FUEL CELLS, FUEL REFORMATION AND EFFICIENT HYDROGEN PRODUCTION TASK 1: BIMETALLIC CATALYSIS.

MCELWEE-WHITE L A

CHEMISTRY

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA U S DEPT OF ENERGY

$78,098

FUEL CELL AND HYDROGEN RESEARCH

MICHA D A

CHEMISTRY

NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION

$148,225

QUANTUM DYNAMICS OF MANY-ATOM SYSTEMS: DENSITY MATRIX THEORY AND COMPUTATIONS

REYNOLDS J R

CHEMISTRY

U S AIR FORCE AFOSR

$216,246

VARIABLE GAP CONJUGATED POLYMERS

ROITBERG A E

CHEMISTRY

U S DEPT OF ENERGY CHICAGO OPERATIONS OFFICE

$90,352

MOLEDULAR- AND NANO-WIRES: PROPERTIES AND CONTROL

STEWART J D

CHEMISTRY

PFIZER INC

$158,928

CHIRAL ALCOHOLS BY ENZYMATIC KETONE REDUCTIONS

TAN W

CHEMISTRY

NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION

$26,793

GOAL I: ADVANCED SEPARATION PROCESSES

TAN W BENNER S A

CHEMISTRY

NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION CORNELL UNIVERSITY

$61,314

NANOSCALE ARRAYS FOR DIRECT RNA PROFILING IN SINGLE CELLS & THEIR COMPARTMENTS

CHANNELL J E

GEOLOGY

NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION

$76,340

MESOZOIC PALEOMAGNETISM IN ADRIA AND AFRICA: SOLVING A PERSISTENT PUZZLE IN ALPINE TECTONICS

CHANNELL J E

GEOLOGY

NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION

$3,870

MESOZOIC PALEOMAGNETISM IN ADRIA AND AFRICA: SOLVING A PERSISTENT PUZZLE IN ALPINE TECTONICS

MARTIN J B

GEOLOGY

DEPT OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECT

$55,523

HYDROGEOLOGY OF OLENO STATE PARK AND NITRATE LOADING FROM THE RIVER RISE, A FIR

MUELLER P A

GEOLOGY

NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION

$95,128

TECHNICAL SUPPORT FOR A NEW ICP-MS LABORATORY FOR EARTH AND OCEAN SCIENCE RESEARCH AT THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA

SAPIENZA C M

INST ADV STDY OF COMMUN PROCES

NATL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH NICHD - CHLD HLTH & HUMAN DEV

$334,250

EXPIRATORY MUSCLE TRAINING IN PATIENTS WITH PARKINSON'S

ALLADI K

MATHEMATICS

MISCELLANEOUS DONORS

$2,030

SUPPORT OF RESEARCH & EDUCATION IN APPLIED MATHEMATICS

DELEENHEER P

MATHEMATICS

NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION

$68,911

MODELS IN MATHEMATICL BIOLOGY: A FEEDBACK PERSPECTIVE

PLEASANTS J M

ORAL HISTORY

WATER MANAGEMENT DISTRICTS ST JOHNS RIVER

$26,190

ST. JOHNS RIVER WATER MANAGEMENT DISTRICT ORAL HISTORY PROJECT

AVERY P R

PHYSICS

UNIV OF CALIFORNIA NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION

$118,108

U.S. CMS RESEARCH PROGRAM

AVERY P R

PHYSICS

CALIFORNIA INST OF TECHNOLOGY NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION

$68,261

ITR: ASE; INT: DMC: ULTRALIGHT: AN ULTRASCALE INFORMATION SYSTEM FOR DATA INTENSIVE RESEARCH

AVERY P R YELTON J M

PHYSICS

U S DEPT OF ENERGY CHICAGO OPERATIONS OFFICE

$83,516

TASK B: RESEARCH IN EXPERIMENTAL HIGH ENERGY PHYSICS: CLEO AND CMS

DORSEY A T

PHYSICS

FLORIDA STATE UNIVERSITY NAT HIGH MAGNETIC FIELD LAB NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION

$34,904

MICROWAVE SPECTROSCOPY OF 2D ELECTRONIC SYSTEMS IN TILTED MAGNETIC FIELDS

HIRSCHFELD P J

PHYSICS

U S NAVY

$110,717

THEORY OF DEFECTS IN CUPRATE SUPERCONDUCTORS

KONIGSBERG J MITSELMAKHER G

PHYSICS

U S DEPT OF ENERGY CHICAGO OPERATIONS OFFICE

$137,200

TASK H: EXPERIMENTAL RESEARCH IN COLLIDER PHYSICS AT CDF

MEISEL M W

PHYSICS

FLORIDA STATE UNIVERSITY NAT HIGH MAGNETIC FIELD LAB

$5,000

DR. JAMES SAULS, VISITING SCIENTIST TO UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA

MITSELMAKHER G KORYTOV A

PHYSICS

U S DEPT OF ENERGY CHICAGO OPERATIONS OFFICE

$25,700

TASK G: EXPERIMENTAL RESEARCH IN COLLIDER PHYSICS AT CMS

MITSELMAKHER G KORYTOV A

PHYSICS

U S DEPT OF ENERGY CHICAGO OPERATIONS OFFICE

$130,640

TASK G: EXPERIMENTAL RESEARCH IN COLLIDER PHYSICS AT CMS

RAMOND P SIKIVIE P

PHYSICS

U S DEPT OF ENERGY CHICAGO OPERATIONS OFFICE

$149,680

TASK A: RESEARCH IN THEORETICAL ELEMENTARY PARTICLE PHYSICS

STANTON C J

PHYSICS

RICE UNIVERSITY U S NAVY

$44,288

OPTICAL CONTROL AND OPTO-SPINTRONICS IN FERROMAGNETIC III-V SEMICONDUCTORS FOR Q

KREPPEL A D

POLITICAL SCIENCE

EUROPEAN UNION

$5,671

EUROPEAN MODULE-REF. W04/0024-EUROPEAN UNION AND EASTERN EUROPE: YESTERDAY, TODAY AND TOMORROW

BURES R M

SOCIOLOGY

NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION

$222,565

ADVANCE FELLOW/PRESERVATION AND CHANGE: THE SOCIAL CONTEST OF SPATIAL PATTERNS IN A SOUTHERN CITY, 1900-2000

KIMBALL R T

ZOOLOGY

NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION

$15,600

ATOL:COLLABORATIVE RESEARCH EARLY BIRD:A COLLABORATIVE PROJECT TO RESOLVE THE DEEP NODES OF AVIAN PHYLOGENY

Photo:
Candace Hollinger

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