• Center for Problem oriented policing

POP Center Tools Understanding Theft of 'Hot Products' Page 6

previous page next page

Responses to Hot Products Problems

Although this is not a Response Guide, it is useful to review some general prevention strategies. One strategy is to identify the features of other similar products that appear to be more difficult to steal and use that information to promote an anti-theft design. These anti-theft characteristics can be represented in the acronym IN SAFE HANDS. Safer products are Identifiable, Neutral, Seen, Attached, Findable, Executable, Hidden, Automatic, Necessary, Detectable, and Secure—all of which reduce their theft risk.45

Although you may well find it difficult (though not impossible) to persuade a manufacturer to redesign their products, identifying vulnerabilities will be useful knowledge in the event that an opportunity does arise. Manufacturers might lack access to crime data and therefore might actually not understand the vulnerabilities of their products, so educate them. Without an informed dialogue between stakeholders it seems unlikely that significant progress will be made.

You may want to share your findings directly with manufacturers or, given the power of consumer spending patterns, publicize them (with appropriate cautions to explain any limitations of your findings). As an illustration, prior to the first publication of the car-theft index in 1992, car-theft levels in the United Kingdom had been rising steadily for the previous 30 years. After its publication, they declined at a similar rate. This is not saying that its publication caused the reduction observed, but the publication, along with action from consumer groups, placed pressure on manufacturers to enhance vehicle-security measures—pressure to which they eventually responded.46 There is an obvious balance to be struck between singling out high-risk models or manufacturers, and encouraging cooperation. This highlights the need for more structured regulation. A national consumer protection program involving the government and consumer groups could perhaps champion such efforts, but there would be legal and cost implications associated with forming such an organization.

Another general strategy for dealing with hot products is the market-disruption approach. The turnover associated with stolen goods markets (in terms of their financial success) is known to affect levels of acquisitive crime (successful markets encourage crime)47 and therefore targeting these markets should help reduce theft.† Additionally, it is evident that there are strong links between the legitimate second-hand goods market/pawn shop business and theft levels.48 Thus, depending upon your local problem, adopting and enforcing stricter second-hand goods sales practices and disrupting stolen goods markets may be worthwhile strategies.49

† See Problem-Specific Guide No. 57, Stolen Goods Markets, for further information.

Stolen goods markets are more likely to be located in less affluent areas and within a fairly short distance from where thefts occur. You can learn about stolen goods markets by interviewing offenders and informants.† Other useful information sources include sales records and pawn shop or second-hand dealer records. Many jurisdictions require that dealers maintain and share these records with police. Locally, many agencies use pawn shop reporting programs.‡ Effective control of stolen goods markets can entail regulating pawn shops, seizing assets, conducting sting operations, closing down fencing operations, and conducting publicity campaigns. Disrupting stolen goods markets is likely to have a positive impact on your theft problem.

† See Problem-Solving Tools Guide No. 3, Using Offender Interviews to Inform Police Problem Solving, for further information.

‡ Leads Online is one good example; details can be found at www.leadsonline.com.

Internet sites such as eBay, Craigslist, and Amazon are less regulated environments in which to sell products, including stolen ones, online. For instance, these sites do not require proof of lawful ownership in order to sell products via the website. You might investigate hot products being sold on these sites locally to seek intelligence on potential stolen goods markets. To help combat theft, eBay has formed partnerships with police agencies to search for stolen goods up for auction and report any suspicious activity to police. Social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter are also good intelligence sources on shoplifting activity. Retailers have successfully used these sites to gather information on perpetrators, their networks, and where stolen goods are stored or sold.§

§ See Problem-Specific Guide No. 11, Shoplifting, for further information.

For those seeking more advice, Appendix B provides details of the general types of responses that might be used, organized by the likely initial cause of the problem. This should be seen as illustrative, but demonstrates that thinking about a problem in this way can help to identify or shape a suitable type of response. You should base your particular responses on your local problem analysis; the appendix suggests that under certain conditions, particular actions or combinations of these are likely to be more effective than others.

previous page next page