Center for Problem-Oriented Policing

Summary of Responses to Theft of Customers' Personal Property in Cafés and Bars

The table below summarizes the responses to theft of customers' personal property from caf├ęs and bars, 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. Remember that law enforcement responses alone are seldom effective in reducing or solving the problem.


Improving Opportunities for Secure but Convenient Storage
# Response How It Works Works Best If… Considerations
1 Providing anti-theft furniture Provides customers with opportunities to store bags securely Furniture is both attractive and convenient for customers May be expensive unless furniture needs replacement for other reasons
2 Providing retro-fitted secure storage Allows customers to hang bags underneath tables keeping them off the floor Clips are visible to customers and appear sturdy This is less costly than using anti-theft furniture but may not be as robust or as effective
3 Providing lockers Provides customers secure storage facilities for items they are unable to watch over Lockers are visible to staff and others; customers expect to remain in establishment long enough to justify using lockers; customers are aware of lockers Designated space(s) for the lockers will be required; locks should be secure but easy to use and require minimal maintenance; lockers should be large enough to allow customers to store bags and items (e.g., laptops) of different sizes
Registration, Recovery, and Removing Benefits
# Response How It Works Works Best If… Considerations
4 Providing online registration schemes linked to police Facilitates reporting theft to police and increases chances of recovering stolen property; some registered electronic devices can be disabled, rendering them useless There is a high adoption, victims report thefts swiftly, secondhand goods shops cooperate and advertise their involvement, and the scheme is widely publicized periodically May require laws that encourage secondhand goods shops to check for proof of ownership when they purchase secondhand goods
5 Sending text bombs to stolen cell phones Irritates thieves and renders cell phones inoperable Phones are unlikely to be exported to other countries or rapidly reprogrammed; cell phone service providers support the initiative Financial costs of running the intervention may be high
6 Providing traditional property marking Deters thieves by increasing risks of detection; increases difficulty of disposing of stolen property Scheme is widely publicized and widely used, and detections are publicized Unproven effectiveness; may require laws that encourage secondhand goods shops to check for proof of ownership when they purchase secondhand goods
7 Educating victims about the rapid cancellation of credit and debit cards Reduces victims' risk of further victimization by credit card fraud and identify theft Victims are provided with timely, comprehensive, and detailed information; message empowers victims rather than simply raising their fear Some program costs to produce up-to-date information materials
Raising Awareness of Risk and Personal Security Solutions
# Response How It Works Works Best If… Considerations
8 Publicizing the use of safer storage by customers Encourages customers to secure personal items Secure storage is possible and practical; message is positive and empowering and does not increase fear of crime Signs may be costly or annoying to some customers
9 Promoting personal security measures Increases difficulty in stealing valuables Products highlighted are readily available, discounted, aesthetically appealing, and functional Recommendations should be impartial, accurate, and suitably comprehensive; may require extensive marketing
Increasing Guardianship and Surveillance
# Response How It Works Works Best If… Considerations
10 Improving natural surveillance Increases offenders' perception that they will be observed The facility's original layout promotes natural surveillance; there are enough staff to keep a watchful eye on customers and their property May be expensive to redesign layout; other customers may be reluctant to intervene; may require staff training and policy on theft intervention
11 Using CCTV Deters thieves by increasing likelihood of detection Crimes occur in areas with little natural surveillance and are obscured from the direct view of staff; CCTV is monitored Costs for equipment and monitoring; privacy concerns
12 Employing door staff in bars By screening exits, and observing customer behavior, door staff may prevent thieves from entering or deter them from stealing Staff are well trained and visibility is good within the venue Can be expensive and may be unlikely to work where thieves are skilled at stealth offenses
Licensing, Management, and Staffing
# Response How It Works Works Best If… Considerations
13 Training staff Increases likelihood of detecting thieves and vulnerable property There are formal, recognized procedures in place for security practices Costs to train staff
14 Requiring theft prevention through licensing Improves routine security practices Compliance is ensured; security measures are in establishments' financial interests May be opposed by hospitality industry; licensing issuance and compliance costs
15 Screening staff Decreases likelihood of hiring thieves Screening measures are in establishments' financial interests May cause staffing problems by discouraging applications; unproven effectiveness
Detection Strategies
# Response How It Works Works Best If… Considerations
16 Undertaking sting operations Increases likelihood of detection Prolific offenders are known to target particular locations, venues targeted are crime hotspots, CCTV cameras can be used to monitor offender activity May require authorizing legislation; enforcement costs