UnderstandingYour Local Problem
The information provided above is only a
generalized description of theft in cafés and bars. You must combine the basic
facts with a more specific understanding of your local problem. Analyzing the
local problem carefully will help you design a more effective response
In addition to criminal justice agencies, the following groups have an interest in
the problem of theft in cafés and bars and should be considered for the
contribution they might make to gathering information about the problem and
responding to it:
- Elected and appointed local government officials
- Community planning organizations
- Insurance companies
- City planning agencies
- Liquor licensing agencies
- Cell phone companies
- Agencies with an interest in identity theft
- Chains of and independent cafés, coffee shops, and bars
- Business associations and economic development organizations
- College and University Campuses
Asking the Right Questions
Following are some critical questions you should ask when analyzing your particular theft
problem, even if the answers are not always readily available. Your answers to
these and other questions will help you define and understand your local
problem and choose the most appropriate set of responses later on.
- Are incidents of theft in cafés and bars recorded in a way that aids analysis
of your local problem?
- Are there alternative administrative means of logging minor crime reports that
might cause you to be unaware of them?
- How much of the problem goes unreported or unrecorded?
- What is stolen during thefts? Does this vary by time of day? Are identification
cards "hot"? Do thieves discard certain items? If so, is it clear what
they are targeting?
- What is the financial value of recorded losses?
- Are stolen ATM cards used post-offense? If so, how quickly are they used? Where
are the ATMs that thieves use? Are they near offense locations?
- What perpetrator techniques are common? Do they vary by venue type or location?
- Is the theft of entire bags a substantial problem? If so, where were the bags
placed (e.g., table, floor) when they were stolen?
- Do cafés and bars themselves record incidents of theft? If so, are the data
- Who is harmed by theft in cafés and bars (e.g., customers, business owners)?
- Are there any noticeable patterns in victim demographics? Age? Gender?
- Are women at a greater risk than men?
- Are particular individuals repeatedly victimized? If so, why?
- At the time of theft, are victims intoxicated? Are they in large groups?
- Are victims sitting or standing at the time of the offense?
- In nightclubs, are victims on the dance floor at the time of the offense?
- Are different types of items stolen from different types of victims (e.g.,
males and females, younger and older)?
Locations and times
- Are some types of venues riskier than others?†
Are certain venue chains riskier than others? Are particular venues repeatedly
- How do high-risk facilities differ from low-risk venues? Are bags/items
frequently left unattended? Is there a lack of secure storage? Are there few
capable guardians empowered to act? Do they have a higher volume of
- Are there spatial hotspots? Does the area have a feature, such as a large
number of ATMs, that attracts thieves?††
- Are there spates of incidents at bars and cafés that are near each other?
- Are there theft hotspots within cafés or bars (e.g., near the door or at the
bar)? Why do thefts occur at these locations?
- What type of clientele frequent risky locations (by time of day)? Workers?
Shoppers? Students? Young people? Mixed groups?
- When do most thefts occur (by time of day, etc.)? Is the timing related to the
number (or crowding) of customers in the café or bar?†††
Do patterns vary across different types of venues?
- Are there local seasonal variations in the problem?
- Are discarded (stolen) items routinely recovered at particular locations? For
example, are they found in restrooms? If so, this may provide insight into
the sequence of steps thieves take, which may inform crime reduction.
many offenders work alone? How many co-offend? How do co-offenders work together?
Why do they co-offend? (Arrested offenders are a good source of information,
but they may differ from active offenders in important ways and may be
reluctant to talk.)†
Do they prefer overt or covert methods of committing thefts?
Do the same offenders commit multiple crimes (are they repeat offenders)? If so, how
prolific are they?
- What types of storage facilities are available?
- Is there an active registration scheme for cell phones? What proportion of
stolen phones is registered?
- What proportion of and types of items are recovered?
- What proportion of offenses results in arrest?
- Is lighting sufficient at high-crime venues?
- What proportion of thefts is recorded on Closed Circuit Television (CCTV)? Do
cameras cover venues’ high-risk locations? Is the lighting at those
locations adequate for identification purposes? Are cameras overt or
- Is anything being done to encourage patrons to secure bags and other items? Are
patrons encouraged to avoid leaving bags unattended?
- Does the establishment post signs advising patrons to guard personal property?
- Is there any post-event advice or care for theft victims? How do staff
respond to victims? Are door staff trained and expected to identify vulnerable
property and suspicious persons?
Measuring Your Effectiveness
Measurement allows you to determine to what degree your efforts have succeeded, and
suggests how you might modify your responses if they are not producing intended
results. You should take measures of your problem before you implement responses to
determine how serious the problem is, and after you implement them to
determine whether they have been effective. All measures should be taken in
both the target area and the surrounding and/or non-target area. For detailed
guidance on measuring effectiveness, see Problem-Solving Tool Guide No. 1, Assessing
Responses to Problems: An Introductory Guide for Police Problem-Solvers.
The types of data collected will depend on the particular problem to be addressed and
the intervention(s) implemented. For example, if the aim of intervention is to
change the way customers secure bags and other CRAVED goods, then in addition
to measuring what was implemented (process measures) and any changes in theft rates
(outcome measures), a useful intermediate outcome measure would be the degree
to which changes have been observed in the way customers secure their property.
To measure potential success, you should establish the following measures.
- What was implemented? Where, when, and with what intensity (e.g., how many CCTV
cameras were installed)?
- If staff training is part of the intervention, when did this occur? Were all
staff trained? Was training repeated to accommodate staff turnover?
- Which stakeholders were involved? Did they achieve specified objectives?
- If publicity was used, what form did it take (e.g., news articles,
venue-specific media)? How widely was it distributed?
Intermediate outcome measures
- Increased use of storage facilities
- Increased degree to which any publicity reached intended audiences (e.g., measured
by a customer survey)
- Fewer bags and CRAVED goods left unattended
- Increased staff awareness of safe-storage practices and their involvement in crime
- Increased number of cell phones formally registered with authorities by café and bar
patrons, where appropriate (see Responses to the Problem of Theft
in Cafés and Bars)
Ultimate outcome measures
- Fewer reports of theft in cafés and bars to police
- Fewer reports of theft in cafés and bars to place managers (although this may
increase if bar staff take the problem more seriously and record thefts
- Increased number of stolen goods recovered and/or returned to their owners
- Decreased severity of incidents (e.g., stolen property less financially valuable)
Displacement and diffusion†
- Increased or decreased number of thefts at other facilities (crime may be displaced,
leading to an increase in other areas or nearby venues)
- More or fewer crimes of other types at the same facility
- Displacement of perpetrator techniques or targets (different items stolen)
- Changes to the spatial and temporal distribution of crime within the bar
- Offender replacement—new offenders committing theft in bars and cafés.