• Center for Problem oriented policing

POP Center Tools Understanding Theft of 'Hot Products' Page 3

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Who Are the Stakeholders?

One particular challenge concerning hot products is that the roles and responsibilities of all the players involved—individuals, police, other crime prevention practitioners, government, and industry and commerce—are unclear and it is difficult to resolve who should be doing what. Some proposals have been made to encourage manufacturers to consider prevention in their designs. One recommendation was the introduction of a traffic-light system clearly marking products (as red, yellow, or green) according to both their risk of theft and built-in security levels.8 There have also been calls for the use of other “levers”† to motivate manufacturers to consider crime prevention during the product-design phase, and for the government to support this idea.9 In this context, the term “crime pollution” has been used to describe crimes that occur as an unanticipated side effect of a new product entering the market.10 According to this view, if manufacturers are considered the polluters, they should be pursued to take preventative action.

Yet it is unfair to suggest that manufacturers always neglect the crime implications of their products. An encouraging trend is that more modern CRAVED items, such as smart phones and tablet computers, have corresponding anti-theft applications or recovery programs. The iPad, for example, has had no known cases of remote attack, so physically losing it is the major security threat. iPads also have built-in security functions, which means that owners can enable high-security encryption, enhance passcodes, and set their device for remote data wiping.‡ The degree to which these affect the desirability of an item to thieves will depend on how they influence offender decision making, which will in turn depend upon offender awareness of these deterrents. Manufacturers are more likely to be incentivized to take action where they can see the potential cost of crime in terms of lost products, lost sales, and loss of reputation.

However, relying on the motivations of manufacturers alone is unlikely to be an effective strategy. As is demonstrated repeatedly below, hot products often drive common theft problems and the police can play a critical role in identifying and suppressing such trends. What follows should convince skeptics of the benefits that can be reaped in analyzing theft problems in this way, and while this guide is aimed at a police audience, it is acknowledged that others parties—including manufacturers, the public, and crime or intelligence analysts for instance—have roles to play.

† For example, through legal sanctions, information programs to get the public to ‘vote with their feet’ or government subsidy removal (see, for example, Stavins 2000).

‡ See www.macworld.com/article/1160313/iPad_security.html.

The other parties who have a stake will vary depending upon the particular product or context. As an example, when dealing with crime against retailers, partnerships should be developed with the loss prevention personnel at all the major retailers in the local community.† In this case, such partnership is necessary because police will need to get data from loss prevention and possibly work with them on product placement and the type of theft deterrent devices used on certain products.

† See Problem-Solving Tools No. 5, Partnering With Businesses to Address Public Safety Problems, for further information. 

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