How Face Recognition Keeps Retail Employees from Using Lethal Force Against Shoplifters

Last year, there were 374 violent deaths at retail locations in the U.S. alone, and many of those killed were customers. Obviously, no monetary cost can be assigned to the loss of an innocent life. What’s more, a single customer or employee death in a big box retailer can have a catastrophic effect on a brand.

Retail security professionals do their best to prevent violence on a daily basis. But at times, security professionals can get caught in the heat of the moment and do things that go against the otherwise well-planned training and policies established by major retailers. As an example, a recent incident at a major retailer had a 70-year-old security professional (and former veteran) leaving his post to chase and get a shoplifter. The incident ended in a physical conflict. Fortunately no one died, but this man’s actions went against his company’s policy, and he was eventually fired as a result.

What isn’t always intuitive to retail security professionals is that “heroic acts” put customers, employees and the suspect in jeopardy. Last year three employees of a major retailer ended up killing a shoplifter by choking him to death. More recently, a security staffer working for a major retail chain in Dallas, fatally shot a shoplifter.

The good news is that more retailers have discovered a way to simultaneously prevent retail crime and improve store safety. Face recognition, which The D&D Daily’s publisher Gus Downing says is on an “inevitable path to retail adoption,” alerts security professionals the moment that someone with a history of shoplifting or violence enters a store. Since most shoplifters are recidivists—especially organized retail crime associates—this gives security professionals tremendous crime prevention powers. Long before an individual has a chance to pocket merchandise, security/loss prevention pros can intervene and offer the suspect customer service: “Hi. I see you’re back. How can I help you today?” The professional might then conspicuously observe the suspect.

This simple act – letting shoplifters know that they have been noticed in a non-aggressive way – often discourages them from wanting to steal and they will exit the store without incident.

The results have been transformative. According to FaceFirst customer data, using biometric surveillance reduces external shrink by over 20%. Even more remarkable is just how much it has been shown to reduce in-store violence. Retailers using FaceFirst have been able to reduce retail violence by 91%. Each time a suspect enters, security receives an alert that tells them exactly what to do, whether that’s observe, offer customer service or, in rare cases, dial 911. These actionable alerts help reinforce store policies that are designed to maximize store safety.

Just one violent incident can damage a retail brand. That’s why it’s so important to explore every avenue possible in order to protect your customers, employees and merchandise. With facial recognition, you can safeguard all three.

Want to hear more about why experts think that face recognition is the ultimate solution for retail safety and crime prevention? Check out our webinar Face Recognition: The Inevitable Path to Retail Adoption.  

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