Investigative Tactics and Strategies
Field techniques and tests for detecting internal retail theft, including double buys, combination buys, and refund buys
By Charles P. Nemeth
March 30, 2010 — CSO —
Excerpted from Private Security and the Investigative Process, Third Edition by Charles P. Nemeth (CRC press, 2010).
For more on retail security, see The essential retail security reader on CSOonline.com
Defensive Techniques to Minimize and Identify Burglary and Property Losses
Tactics and Strategies
A highly skilled investigator possesses two fundamental traits: first, the investigator knows the territory to which he or she is assigned, its personalities, its geographic location, its layout, and its overall operation; and second, the investigator is able to apply theory in practical situations. Thus, a private security investigator enlisted by a retail establishment to determine how goods are being pilfered should have a comprehensive understanding of the establishment. Prospective suspects will be numerous; before proceeding on wild goose chases or professional conjecture, become familiar with the assigned area. As always, use common sense when formulating an investigative strategy and practices. [Editor's note: Also read about the basics of internal investigations on CSOonline.com.]
1. Site Security Surveys and Their Application
By evaluating the physical and procedural weaknesses of business establishments and then making recommendations on corrective action, the security survey makes a remarkable contribution to crime deterrence. Police departments, private security companies, and other consultants all engage in survey design and analysis. Upon completion of a field survey, a permanent record should be kept on file.
2. Determining Organizational Characteristics
Investigators, especially those working in institutional settings, should have a feel for the organizational and administrative makeup of their clients. Companies that are loosely organized and have administrative problems will be more likely to have serious problems with internal theft and pilferage. The National Institute of Justice urges:
"[T]he control of employee taking of property seems to be a problem that the business organization must keep visible on its list of priorities and objectives. It cannot be ignored or relegated to a topic of temporary or minimal importance, nor should it be assigned as a task for a specialized portion of the organization's management team. This research suggests that only by exhibiting a conspicuous and consistent climate of concern about the control of internal theft at all occupational levels can an organization hope to have a significant effect on the behavior of its employees."
- U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, Theft by Employees in Work Organizations (1983), 2.
The entire corporate or institutional environment influences an investigator's judgment. To perform the job properly, the investigator must know how management operates, how it intends to pursue parties who are apprehended, and how it oversees the scheme of things. Companies that treat their employees poorly, that provide little or no feedback on performance, and that do not restrict or restrain conduct or behavior risk far greater losses due to employee misconduct. In essence, a lack of control results in an almost chaotic environment. As a rule of thumb, if employees feel the scrutiny of management, that there are repercussions to illegal and immoral conduct, and that the company has invested significant time and energy in ensuring the protection of its assets, it is less likely that criminal conduct will occur. There are many factors that enhance the potentiality for criminal conduct, especially internal theft, fraud, and embezzlement within the business entity, including:
- Inadequate pay, benefits, job security, and promotional opportunities
- Ambiguity in job roles, relationships, responsibilities, and areas of accountability
- Lack of recognition for good work, loyalty, longevity, and effort
- Lack of periodic audits and inspections
- Ambiguous corporate social values and ethical norms
- Tolerance or indifference toward antisocial behavior
- Bias or unfairness in selection, promotion, compensation, or appraisal
- Inadequate training on security matters and company policies with respect to sanctions for security breaches
- Failure to screen applicants thoroughly for sensitive positions before appointment
- General job-related stress or anxiety