By Al Kuilan, Training Coordinator
One of the most difficult assignments in the security field is that of the Loss Prevention Investigator (LPI). The LPI has to work unnoticed and also has to make apprehensions. Unfortunately, even the most common and prolific shoplifter usually has a lookout or someone attempting to distract the uniformed security personnel.
What this means is that when you apprehend an offender, you may also have another set of eyes on you. The next time this person enters your location, they will know what you look like. Organized Retail Crime organizations might even have more than one person in the location and others outside of the location. They work in teams and are savvy at pointing out plain-clothes security and plain-clothes police officers.
This is one of the risks of working inside of what I call the fishbowl. Most retail organizations do not have an LPI who is used only for the purposes of observation. The LPI has to make do with the situation they operate in
In any situation where safety is a factor, you will need speed and distance. The LPI has to quickly identify potential offenders and be able to observe them from a distance in order to identify lookouts, bagmen and other criminal facilitators that might interfere with the apprehension. Some retail institutions use CCTV to give them the upper hand in the identification of potential offenders. For the usual LPI, resources are low and they have to use their experience and instinct to overcome criminal adversaries.
The first step for any plain-clothes security officer, like an LPI, is clothing. The LPI has to know who the customer is, how they dress and how they act. Unfortunately, untrained security personnel and even police officers are usually easily identifiable. Here are some tips that might help you blend in better.
- What good is it if the plain-clothes officer is wearing an obvious earpiece? If you need to carry a walkie-talkie, it would be best to tuck it inside of a backpack or on your body. Refrain from placing the radio on either the left or right side (“gun side”). Most criminals are very adept at spotting weapons and might mistake your radio for a gun.
- Just like gangbangers represent their gangs by wearing certain colors, plain-clothes security and police officers also do the same. Most wear blue or black clothing and if they do avoid the obvious law enforcement colors, they will often spoil their look by wearing black boots or military style footwear.
- Blending in means looking and acting like the usual customers that clients cater to.
Earlier, I mentioned the “Fishbowl” and what I meant by this is that no matter how big your location is, you are still confined to its physical boundaries. The bad guys know this and might conduct pre-operational surveillance in order to identify security and law enforcement personnel. They might even call 911 or start a fight in order to gauge the response time of the police and draw out the plain-clothes security officers.
If your location is observable from the outside, make sure you spend some time out of the fishbowl. Find a perch, or observation point, where you can observe not only the inside of the location, but the immediate area outside of the location. You want to do this because, as I mentioned earlier, the bad guys work in teams. You want to be able to know what the inside and the outside of the location feels like, what is the normal behavior of customers inside of the location and others outside of the location.
This is called establishing a behavioral baseline. This will help you spot anomalies in behavior or actions that are different than the baseline. An example would be if the baseline for your location is a normal flow of traffic with some potential customers looking into the location’s windows for a few seconds and they either enter the location or continue on their way. An anomaly would be someone peering into the location, stepping back a few feet away from the location and looking to their left and right or giving signals to another person inside the location.
What if everyone in and around the location is wearing summer clothing, short sleeve shirts, shorts, and sandals? That would be the baseline for that location during that time period. Now here come two persons with coats on. This would be an anomaly. Practicing this baselining will help you develop speed in identifying potential trouble.
You can also baseline the inside of your location. If the baseline for your location reveals that most of your customers come in alone, then a group of people entering the location would be an anomaly. This does not mean that something criminal is going to happen, but it will help keep you alert to the possibility. Once an anomaly is identified then you can either send a customer representative over to chat them up or you can set your resources in place. Either way the potential bad guy is now playing on your field and under your rules.
SIS Loss Prevention Investigators are professionals and being a professional means that you know your tradecraft. The SIS Training Department is here to help you become a better investigator in order to give the client that little extra that puts SIS apart from the competition.
About Security Industry Specialists
Founded in 1999, Security Industry Specialists, Inc. provides unique security solutions to Fortune 500 luxury brands and tech companies, special events, and celebrity clients. Our partnerships demonstrate that our boutique approach is a welcome change in an industry not typically recognized for creative solutions. Those who have experienced SIS — whether as an employee or client — will attest to the fact that there is something different about the way our employees conduct themselves and feel about their responsibilities. Ultimately, it is this commitment and drive that makes SIS the industry leader in security.