Center for Problem-Oriented Policing

Summary of Responses

The table below summarizes the responses to retail burglaries, the mechanism by which they are intended to work, the conditions under which they ought to work best, and some factors you should consider before implementing a particular response. It is critical that you tailor responses to local circumstances, and that you can justify each response based on reliable analysis. In most cases, an effective strategy will involve implementing several different responses. Law enforcement responses alone are seldom effective in reducing or solving the problem.

Police Responses
#ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best If...Considerations
1Targeting repeat offendersIncapacitates those offenders responsible for a large portion of burglaries…police can reliably identify habitual criminals; there is a high proportion of repeat burglaries; courts are willing to award custodial sentences; and crackdowns are consolidated through environmentalRequires the cooperation of prosecutors, courts, probation and parole departments, and city planning departments
2Targeting repeatedly burgled storesConcentrates prevention where it is most needed; facilitates the arrest of prolific offendersa small proportion of stores experience a large proportion of burglaries, and measures can be put in place quicklyRequires cooperation among police divisions (local officers, crime prevention officers, detectives), business owners and city officials
3Disrupting markets for stolen goodsReduces the incentive for theft by making it difficult for offenders to sell stolen goodsstolen-goods markets are not widespreadCan be difficult to obtain information about how and where offenders sell or exchange stolen goods; stings are expensive and of doubtful effectiveness; courts often take a lenient view on receiving stolen property charges
4Establishing business/shop watch programsIncreases offenders' risk of police intervention and/or subsequent identificationconcern about retail burglaries is widely shared among storesCan be difficult to enlist store owners' participation; a more effective alternative is to establish temporary "cocoon" watch programs around recently burgled premises
Retailer Actions
#ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best If...Considerations
5Upgrading external securityStops or slows down offendersexisting security is low, and natural surveillance is poorTarget-hardening solutions need to be carefully tailored to individual stores, often requiring the advice of professional security consultants
6Installing burglar alarmsIncreases offenders' risk of getting caughta high proportion of stores are fitted with alarms, and alarms are connected to CCTV systems that allow private security companies to verify that a burglary is taking place before calling the policeBurglars can disable alarms; there are high rates of false alarms, but improved systems are coming on the market
7Safeguarding cash and valuable stockReduces the rewards of burglaryburglars' principal target is cash or stock readily convertible to cashLittle research is available on this strategy's effectiveness
8Locking escape routesSlows offenders down and increases their risk of getting caught; limits the amount of stock offenders can removestores are located in areas with good natural surveillance, and stolen goods are bulky/heavyA commonsense approach, but one on which little relevant evaluative research has been done; depends on well-trained and disciplined staff
9Screening and training shop staffReduces the risk of "inside jobs"; increases staff's responsibility for store securitystores are located in high- crime areas, and staff turnover is highLaws must permit screening of potential employees; employees must have incentives to share in the security function
10Employing security guards after hoursIncreases offenders' risk of getting caughtstores are closely clustered together, and guards are constantly or frequently presentBurglars report being most deterred by security guards; a low-cost alternative for larger stores is to employ a night crew to handle cleanup, restocking and display dressing
11Using crime prevention through environmental design (CPTEDMakes burglary more difficult; increases offenders' risk of getting caughtretailers are planning major remodeling or the construction of new buildingsIncorporating CPTED principles need not be costly and can bring long term benefits; CPTED surveys can be undertaken for an entire business district, as well as for individual premises
City Planning Measures
#ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best If...Considerations
12Improving street surveillance through lighting and CCTVImproving street surveillance through lighting and CCTVstores are located in downtown areas or business districtsU.S. civil liberty groups often oppose the installation of public CCTV systems; lights and CCTV equipment are sometimes vandalized in high crime areas
13Promoting "living over the shop"Increases natural surveillance of stores at night and on weekendsstores are located in downtown areas or business districtsThis initiative is usually part of a wider revitalization program; accommodations sometimes do not provide good surveillance of the stores below; this approach appeals most to singles and young people who are often away from home and therefore provide less surveillance
14Promoting business improvement districts (BIDs)Increases natural surveillance in the areaBIDs have dedicated patrols by security staffBIDs depend on widespread support from the business community; BIDs' crime prevention value has not yet been demonstrated