Thursday, September 18, 2008

Public service announcement - Shopping and Security

As a security officer myself, its time to start thinking about Christmas shopping. Yeah, I know its a little early, but they got us starting to think about these things at work, so I thought I would add my take as a security professional without giving away all the tricks of our trade.

I want to say these are good tips. One thing emphasised below and it keeps your car from being broken into is to not leave items on the seats and have them visible. Thieves look for stuff on the seats. Place items while shopping in your trunk always being sure to check your surroundings while doing so.

One thing to remember is that even if a shopping mall or other such retail environment has a camera system, there are many such cameras (sometimes in the hundreds) and all cannot be under observation at any one time. They can catch someone if that particular camera is under observation at a particular moment, but don't assume that since they have cameras that it is under observation. However, all cameras are recording and those tapes or digital recordings can be run back up to a month on many systems. Officers observing camera systems are trained to look for trends and activities which might lead to criminal activity. However, input from the public is necessary and one is encouraged to notify security at the retail facility you are at if you observe suspicious activity.

Remember, we are all in this and anything you can do to help security staff helps to reduce costs to you. For each item stolen, the costs to honest individuals increase in order to cover the losses from theft. Also, there are huge losses from organized retail theft rings with gangs of individuals going after a particular mall or large retail venue. Those losses cost YOU!

Retail theft gangs more often than not do not fit the stereotype of a shoplifter. They come from all races, creeds, colors and sexes. They are there to fleece the mall and sometimes are as trained as the security officers. They case a mall, looking for gaps in the security, camera placement, and other general items to make their job easier. They specialize in gathering large numbers of items from stores at one time and returning to other stores in a retail facility to gather more. Many strip malls have no organized security except for individual venues so in many cases they may not recognize such gangs, especially in rural areas. Thieves will hit "soft targets" so if you see things that you think are suspicious, by all means, notify on site security (if any) or law enforcement.

With the economy going south, the likelihood is that retail theft this year is likely to be astronomical. You can assist the security professionals by being observant.

It is also important to remember that you are the first line in your own defense. If you don't feel comfortable, by all means let the people that are there to help you know. We are all in this together and by working together we can help each other.

Safety tips from a professional bodyguard

Avoid being chosen. Criminals choose their victim in 7 seconds by their demeanor. You should walk confidently - don't shuffle along with your head down. Next time you take a break in a mall watch people and see who you think would be an easy target and why. Is their purse open or wallet sticking out of the pocket, are they loaded down with packages, talking on a cell phone, distracted?

Don't be task-fixated.
Be aware of what and who is around you when you are shopping, getting gas, parking, putting packages or a child in the car. You are a target when you aren't paying attention to your surroundings.

Trust your instincts. If you think someone is following you don't run - they will chase (think wild kingdom). Instead, consider turning around and returning to where you left. Make eye contact and speak to them (hello, not a confrontation). That is an unexpected move and will throw them off. It also gives you a chance to get a description of the person.

When you are parking or leaving a building take 5 seconds and take in your surroundings before heading out. Who is around you, what type of vehicles. Avoid parking next to vans with sliding doors (you can be grabbed quickly). Check your backseat when you approach your car.

When you return home take 5 seconds and look at your house and the area around it
before you get out of your car. Is it as you left it or is something different?
Lock your doors (car and house) within 3 seconds of entering them.

Know where there are safe havens along the routes you travel frequently - fire, police, hospital, 24 hour businesses with staff like a gas station, grocery store, or restaurant. If you think someone is following you don't go home. Go to one of the safe havens instead - go where there are other people.

Never let your gas tank get less than 1/2 full.

Never allow yourself to be taken from one location to a second location where you will be isolated.

Sanitize your vehicle. What can someone tell about you if they look at your car. Can they tell if it belongs to a male or female by the bumper stickers or what's inside? Don't leave mail or magazines with your address visible.

Use the buddy system whenever possible. Run errands together, walk with a buddy. There is safety in numbers.

These were some of the important points. Use your best judgement - not everything works in every situation. Trust your instincts, your gut. The few seconds you spend checking out your surroundings and taking precautions may save you from being a victim. Be safe.

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I am interested in CNG vehicles because they are good for the environment and aren't powered by dead Marines. I still have a little hope for the world. Read the musings and enjoy.

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