It’s widespread knowledge New Zealand has been experiencing a huge wave of criminal offences this past year, with reports of retail crime almost doubling in the past 5 years. Maintaining safety and security in the retail space is a considerable challenge at present, and whilst these types of criminal offences have been typically uncommon for New Zealand in the past, putting security measures in place today will ensure we are able to combat these issues in the future.
As an organisation who is responsible for the security oversight of the largest market share of New Zealand’s retail malls across the country, we have experienced first-hand the affects retail crime has on our customers, retailers, members of the public and our people. To address these, members of our executive leadership team attended a roundtable discussion to share insights into the retail crime activities occurring. The purpose of the discussion was to bring together affected parties including property owners, operators, and retailers, with industry experts including Police and security providers to collaborate on a response to the retail crime activities. Throughout the discussions it was clear that all parties had the same key objectives – to reduce retail crime, and to help our staff and our customers feel safe.
From this discussion, our own experience, and internal conversations with our operational people, we have outlined practical steps our organisation, our customers, and retailers can take to meet these objectives:
What can we do as a Security Provider?
1. Be a visible deterrent
Traditionally at retail mall sites, security officers would often wear black corporate suit and tie uniforms as a more friendly, customer service approach to security. When additional guards in more visible uniforms were deployed to sites after ram raids occurred, feedback was received that more visible guards in brighter security uniforms were well received. This helped retailers feel safer as security officers were much more noticeably present. Whilst a full change of site uniform may not always be practical and cost effective, a simple change like the inclusion of a high-vis to give maximum deterrence effect has worked well at some of our permanent sites.
2. Provide enhanced training
Upskilling frontline staff through advanced training is a practical and beneficial way to keep them up to date on different operating techniques. We do this by providing scenario-based training in the field, where we give our guards scenarios and situations and they detail to us how they would handle the situation, and what measures they would take to manage the scenarios. From this discussion our trainers then coach them on other techniques and processes so that they gain a better understanding on the processes required to manage each scenario.
3. Strengthening security measures outside
Whilst keeping people and property secure inside of our facilities is vital, ensuring we are securing outside the venue is just as important. From our experience we have found that by shifting our focus to the perimeter of the facility, we have been able to identify small changes we can implement to reduce risk on the inside Examples include having visible security guards patrolling the entranceways and outer carpark areas regularly as visual deterrents and closing carpark areas that are close to the entrance of the facility at high-risk times.
4. Develop a ‘hot spot’ site plan
Having a planned approach to security is vital to ensure on-site security staff are being utilised to their full potential. This is particularly important for large sites that have a lot of ground space to cover, and smaller sites that don’t have a large guard team. By understanding site hot spots and security requirements, and planning guard patrols or positioning in those areas regularly, gives our staff better visibility of offenders. The shopping centre sites we provide security services to have seen a noticeable decrease in offences when these plans have been implemented well. Improvements can be made just by positioning guards at certain locations e.g. entry and exit points.
5. Ensuring security staff have a professional presence
Feedback was given by Police on offender’s commentary, stating that facilities were less likely to be targeted if the security officers had a tidy and clean uniform, were very engaging with all patrons, and were more present throughout the facility. We reinforce the importance of this professional and proactive appearance to our team regularly through our toolbox training and regular site visits.
6. Integrated security with on-site staff
One of the most effective ways of monitoring security onsite is by encouraging all on-site staff to be the ‘eyes and ears’ of the facility. This enables all staff whether that be retailers, cleaners, or contractors to be proactive in communicating any suspicious behaviour immediately to security staff for follow up. We have found this approach successful, ensuring fast and effective communication of incidents and events.
7. Improving reporting
Feedback from Police was evident in that more reporting was necessary to build a true picture of the crime in relevant areas. Without this information, Police are unable to provide the relevant resources for higher crime rate areas. This includes both immediate threats like active shoplifters through 111, but also and most importantly non-emergency reporting like reporting after an event through 105.
8. Build better relationships with Retailers
Having strong relationships with retailers on site is an important step to build trust and improve communication. This helps them feel safe and makes it easier for them to communicate incidents more effectively. We have found this particularly successful at our sites when reporting of incidents is needed for the 105 police reporting.
What can our customers do?
Whilst our customers employ security guards to oversee their facilities and staff, there are additional steps they can take to strengthen their security measures:
1. Maximising visibility of ‘Security’ staff
An easy and effective option to ensure maximum visibility of on-site security staff has been to provide all on-site staff with the same uniform. We have found this approach is very effective at our customer site in Botany where all maintenance staff, cleaners, and security staff wear the same uniform. This creates the illusion that the on-site security team has a larger presence, and acts as a better deterrent to crime at the site. People want to feel safe, and the more visibility they see of security, the safer they will feel.
2. Varying closing time
Being able to be flexible with store close times is an easy measure to take when minimising the risk of crime on stores. This is because it reduces offenders’ ability to plan attacks when closing times vary. This would provide the retailers with flexibility to manage their own security risks, particularly in the last hour when stores are closing.
3. Encourage reporting
Police have expressed their concern about under reporting of security issues on sites. Mostly because of a perceived notion that the issue isn’t concerning enough to involve the Police in the first instance. By encouraging staff to report on things that are ‘not the norm’, Police are able to build a better understanding on the crime activity for the site. These can be simple things like individuals loitering, wearing suspicious clothing like hoodies and face coverings, and taking photos of store fronts, security guards and security cameras. See something out of the ordinary? Report it.
4. Encourage an engaging culture
Reiterating the importance of an engaging culture has proved beneficial at our customer sites in reducing crime risk activities. This is because an engaged workforce with all patrons shows offenders that they are aware of their presence. A simple way to do this is by sending regular reminders to all site staff to make eye contact with all patrons and greeting people at every contact point. By taking this approach with every patron, we can all play a part in ensuring the safety of the site by making these simple changes. An engaged, friendly face also never goes astray.
5. Monitoring social media
Police have reported that majority of the offences are driven not by the desire for retailer goods, but for social media notoriety. A simple measure to help our customers and sites be aware of any discussions and trends on criminal activity, is by having staff monitor this behaviour whilst on social media. The more eyes and ears we have looking out for this behaviour, the better we can manage it.
What can retailers do?
When security incidents occur, it is often the retailers who are affected the most. For some it has been ram raids and burglaries, and for others it is consistent violent and aggressive behaviour towards staff. Creating a safe and secure environment can be achieved with some small changes instore:
1. Make changes to your CCTV cameras
By changing the location of your CCTV cameras, offending is less likely to occur. This includes lowering the cameras so that they are more visible and are able to view offenders faces under caps.
2. Make your CCTV signage more prominent
In the past, security measures like cameras and signage were hidden to feel less conspicuous. Today, it’s more important to make these more prominent to reduce the risk of offending. Have small CCTV signage? Make these larger. Don’t have any signage? Get some made!
3. Re-assess your store layout
More often stores are targeted because offenders can easily commit offences because of easy exit paths and lack of visibility from staff members. If you are not sure on the best layout for your store, reach out to us here at Red Badge to get a security audit on your site.
4. Report, report, report!
Several times throughout this piece we have mentioned the importance of reporting. Reiterating this importance to all retail staff is key to understanding the criminal activity of the site. This helps influence how many security staff are needed for the site, and the level of Police resourcing for the area. Reporting immediate threats like active shoplifters are done through 111, and non-emergency reporting through to 105.
5. Encourage a positive and engaging security culture
Encouraging each other to have safety and security at the forefront of our minds means that we will be a step ahead of offenders and be proactive in our approach. Practical tips to do this include a having a safety briefing to your staff on what ‘abnormal’ security behaviour is, remind them daily of the actions they need to take when reporting issues to security or Police, and if further help is required, reach out to your site security provider for more assistance and training.
At the end of the day, we are all responsible for ensuring a safe and secure workplace for our staff, customers, retailers, and visitors. By implementing these small and practical actions every day, we can create an environment that reduces retail crime and most importantly, help our staff and our customers feel safe.