By Kelly Riddle
Shrinkage is a term that makes those in the security and loss prevention industries cringe upon hearing. This immediately conjures up a visual of a person discretely snatching an article of clothing and jamming it into the trap door of a “wrapped present” they are carrying under their arms.
There are many industry-accepted methods of dealing with the common types of theft and pilferage in retail settings, including CCTV systems, electronic sensors on merchandise, and undercover loss prevention personnel. But what do you do when a problem exists outside of the normal box?
Loss prevention personnel are trained and educated to protect a specific geographic location such as a mall, convenience store, manufacturing plant, or similar asset. Private investigators are trained and educated based on an ever-changing client, location, and operating method. Take either out of their field of expertise and you will usually end up with a “duck out of water” situation. However, there are often many times when the two agencies can collaborate and work effectively to achieve a successful end. Unfortunately, many of these opportunities are often missed or simply overlooked.
As a private investigator, I can tell you of situations where we relied on the expertise and scope of the loss prevention personnel. On the other hand, loss prevention personnel have found numerous occasions when the use of their own employees is not suitable. An example of this would include suspected employee embezzlement, a vendor-related situation, or the complication of multiple geographic locations.
While loss prevention could possibly handle the incident, the potential for discovery and human resource issues dramatically increase. Inappropriate action against an employee could result in discrimination lawsuits, workers’ compensation-related claims, and morale issues with other employees, just to name a few. Should problems arise during the investigation of a vendor, this could create a public relations dilemma that could affect the supply of product for the entire company.
In the general sense, loss prevention personnel work with local law enforcement when someone is detained after having committed a theft. The police officer meets with loss prevention, makes a report, and takes custody of the perpetrator. This relationship may extend somewhat to increased patrols or presence of law enforcement, especially during holidays. Police officials may also provide some assistance in training loss prevention personnel.
The private investigator, on the other hand, typically works on a different level with law enforcement, often with detectives and not patrol personnel. Through this working relationship, private investigators work closely with specialized sting operations after the investigator develops the case to a point where law enforcement is involved. Much of law enforcement is a response to a crime after it has been committed. Patrol units and loss prevention personnel are more involved with the crime at hand versus private investigators and police detectives who operate in a follow-up capacity.
Loss prevention personnel are the natural people for corporate management to turn to when a problem in the security realm encroaches the work environment. When management requests something out of the ordinary, such as a countermeasures sweep to determine how trade secrets, client information, or conversations are being leaked, partnering with private investigators allows the task to be handled quickly and professionally. In this manner, the loss prevention personnel are kept in the inner workings and maintain their position with management while being a clearinghouse for security issues.
Additionally, private investigators are consistently working more closely with loss prevention personnel regarding counterfeit products. Some of the many items finding their way into mainstream businesses include purses, sunglasses, blue jeans, watches, and items with trademark-protected logos. The majority of the counterfeit products are very sophisticated in their ability to copy the original item and are typically being manufactured in Asia. Private investigators are regularly employed by many of the large corporations in an effort to prevent the introduction of counterfeit products. These products are typically found in flea markets, convenience stores, dollar stores, and similar retail establishments. However, they can also be found in several large and very well known national retail stores throughout the United States. This increases the working relationship between private investigators and the loss prevention departments. Additionally, private investigators are finding their loss prevention counterparts very helpful in increasing the number of personnel actively engaged in reviewing products, allowing them to focus on other areas.
Private investigators not only can benefit in their work product by associations with loss prevention personnel but can also utilize these contacts to increase business opportunities. Working together, both entities win in an ever-changing environment.
Kelly E. Riddle is the President of Kelmar and Associates Investigations (www.KelmarGlobal.com) as well as a certified member of the Texas Association of Licensed Investigators (https://www.tali.org/). Contact Kelmar Global at (888) 873-1714.