Center for Problem-Oriented Policing

Summary of Responses

The table below summarizes the responses to retail burglaries, the mechanism by which they are intended to work, the conditions under which they ought to work best, and some factors you should consider before implementing a particular response. It is critical that you tailor responses to local circumstances, and that you can justify each response based on reliable analysis. In most cases, an effective strategy will involve implementing several different responses. Law enforcement responses alone are seldom effective in reducing or solving the problem.

Police Responses
# Response How It Works Works Best If... Considerations
1 Targeting repeat offenders Incapacitates those offenders responsible for a large portion of burglaries …police can reliably identify habitual criminals; there is a high proportion of repeat burglaries; courts are willing to award custodial sentences; and crackdowns are consolidated through environmental Requires the cooperation of prosecutors, courts, probation and parole departments, and city planning departments
2 Targeting repeatedly burgled stores Concentrates prevention where it is most needed; facilitates the arrest of prolific offenders …a small proportion of stores experience a large proportion of burglaries, and measures can be put in place quickly Requires cooperation among police divisions (local officers, crime prevention officers, detectives), business owners and city officials
3 Disrupting markets for stolen goods Reduces the incentive for theft by making it difficult for offenders to sell stolen goods …stolen-goods markets are not widespread Can be difficult to obtain information about how and where offenders sell or exchange stolen goods; stings are expensive and of doubtful effectiveness; courts often take a lenient view on receiving stolen property charges
4 Establishing business/shop watch programs Increases offenders' risk of police intervention and/or subsequent identification …concern about retail burglaries is widely shared among stores Can be difficult to enlist store owners' participation; a more effective alternative is to establish temporary "cocoon" watch programs around recently burgled premises
Retailer Actions
# Response How It Works Works Best If... Considerations
5 Upgrading external security Stops or slows down offenders …existing security is low, and natural surveillance is poor Target-hardening solutions need to be carefully tailored to individual stores, often requiring the advice of professional security consultants
6 Installing burglar alarms Increases offenders' risk of getting caught …a high proportion of stores are fitted with alarms, and alarms are connected to CCTV systems that allow private security companies to verify that a burglary is taking place before calling the police Burglars can disable alarms; there are high rates of false alarms, but improved systems are coming on the market
7 Safeguarding cash and valuable stock Reduces the rewards of burglary …burglars' principal target is cash or stock readily convertible to cash Little research is available on this strategy's effectiveness
8 Locking escape routes Slows offenders down and increases their risk of getting caught; limits the amount of stock offenders can remove …stores are located in areas with good natural surveillance, and stolen goods are bulky/heavy A commonsense approach, but one on which little relevant evaluative research has been done; depends on well-trained and disciplined staff
9 Screening and training shop staff Reduces the risk of "inside jobs"; increases staff's responsibility for store security …stores are located in high- crime areas, and staff turnover is high Laws must permit screening of potential employees; employees must have incentives to share in the security function
10 Employing security guards after hours Increases offenders' risk of getting caught …stores are closely clustered together, and guards are constantly or frequently present Burglars report being most deterred by security guards; a low-cost alternative for larger stores is to employ a night crew to handle cleanup, restocking and display dressing
11 Using crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED Makes burglary more difficult; increases offenders' risk of getting caught …retailers are planning major remodeling or the construction of new buildings Incorporating CPTED principles need not be costly and can bring long term benefits; CPTED surveys can be undertaken for an entire business district, as well as for individual premises
City Planning Measures
# Response How It Works Works Best If... Considerations
12 Improving street surveillance through lighting and CCTV Improving street surveillance through lighting and CCTV …stores are located in downtown areas or business districts U.S. civil liberty groups often oppose the installation of public CCTV systems; lights and CCTV equipment are sometimes vandalized in high crime areas
13 Promoting "living over the shop" Increases natural surveillance of stores at night and on weekends …stores are located in downtown areas or business districts This initiative is usually part of a wider revitalization program; accommodations sometimes do not provide good surveillance of the stores below; this approach appeals most to singles and young people who are often away from home and therefore provide less surveillance
14 Promoting business improvement districts (BIDs) Increases natural surveillance in the area …BIDs have dedicated patrols by security staff BIDs depend on widespread support from the business community; BIDs' crime prevention value has not yet been demonstrated