3 Ways Retail Security Teams Can Better Protect Shoppers and Employees

Retail stores across the country, most recently in areas like San Francisco and Los Angeles, have been hit hard by a spree of ‘smash-and-grab‘ crimes. In one incident, up to 80 suspects were involved in a flash mob looting of a store. Some chains and storefronts in hot zones have chosen to close locations to eliminate the attacks.

These thefts have impacted the companies not only by posing risks to staff and customers but also by damaging brand reputation and business continuity.

Historically, mob violence has always been one of the biggest challenges for security and protection officers. It’s hard for a single security officer or police officer to do anything about that kind of overwhelming criminal force.

Looting is Trending

A recent report from the Retail Industry Leaders Association and Buy Safe America says retail theft has ballooned to $68.9 billion as organized crime spawns massive criminal enterprises online with more brazen attacks on stores.

Attacks on retail employees are also troubling. Nearly 76 percent reported that an organized retail criminal has physically assaulted an associate (e.g., punched, kicked, etc.). Over 40 percent of APMs said that an organized retail criminal has actually used a weapon to harm an associate.

Three Ways To Stay Ahead of an Incident

Whether it’s loss prevention, mitigating a dangerous surging mob, or preventing an active shooter within a retail store, staying one step ahead of an incident is imperative to the safety of the shoppers and retail workers.


Know the trends, locations of attacks, and modus operandi of the threat actors. Liaison with police gang intelligence units can assist, along with leveraging security networks in the same space. Sharing information amongst professional colleagues (even competitors) is crucial.


Security officers in plain clothes on the perimeter of locations may assist as early warning look-outs if suspect data is known. In some instances, the presence of uniformed security inside stores has not been a deterrent.


Gangs of 80 don’t materialize out of thin air. Warnings and indicators could be out in the social media space, but finding them can be a challenge.

Connecting The Dots With Technology

Technology is a proactive solution to consider. A single-pane of glass solution is helpful for mapping the threat landscape and sharing data across key stakeholders inside the company. It can also be utilized for the challenge of finding threats on social media and the Dark Web by providing an always-on stream of data that leverages keywords to determine what needs action and what doesn’t.

Solutions should include the ability to store suspect data, link analysis, dissemination of rapid Be-On-The-Lookouts (BOLOs), license plate readers, and internal security camera footage. The latter can help internal investigators and the police identify suspects and aid in mapping organized criminal enterprises.

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See how Ontic can help protect retailers, shoppers, and employees

Fred Burton