The security week that was: 11/21/08

A coming wave of shoplifting?

A week from today is what the retail industry calls "Black Friday." With so many sales and "door busters" to kick off the holiday shopping season, some are saying that this is also the start of the holiday retail crime season.

At a press conference with Tyco firms Sensormatic and ADT Security Services (see ADT release on same subject) yesterday, Ed Wolfe, the former vice president of loss prevention at Home Depot and also a veteran of Macy’s loss prevention department, said he expects to see more shoplifting, product price switching and even pick-pocketing this holiday season. Simply put, said Wolfe, “The bad economy provides more rationalization to steal."

Our industry, of course, has a long history of fighting back with technology. According to Scott Clements, vice president and general manager of Sensormatic, retailers have turned to technologies like electronic article surveillance (EAS) and ink tags to stem the losses precipitated by shoplifters. He notes that his firm sells some 6 billion of the smallest EAS labels in a year’s time, on top of all the larger plastic tags that are also being used by retailers.

We covered some of this topic in last week’s column, but since then, even more news reports are out about shoplifting operations in action around our nation and in our malls. While Wolfe says he doesn’t expect a holiday uptick in organized retail crime operations, there may not need to be an uptick to affect retailers. Those groups are already in operation in many areas, and there recent reports of operations near Minneapolis and in South Florida. And with an influx of single-individual shoplifting actions propelled by a down economy, unless retailers prepare by reminding staff to watch out for suspicious activity and potential shoplifters, “Black Friday” could be known for high shrinkage rates in addition to its high number of sales.

51-foot ladders
Speculation on new DHS secretary

It’s by no means confirmed, but Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano is rumored to be in the running for President-elect Barack Obama’s choice to head up the Department of Homeland Security. Napolitano is a bit of a moderate when it comes to border security, which has been one of the agency's top concerns. She’s supported the E-Verify program for verifying SSNs and citizenship of employees, but didn’t sign a law enacting the REAL ID driver’s license program. She has expressed support of a temporary illegal immigrant amnesty offering, but she also sent her state’s National Guard troops to Arizona’s border to help enforce the border laws. She has had to face the added costs that immigrants put on her state’s public programs, but she has not been a supporter of the Bush administration’s plan to construct a 700-mile border wall. " You build a 50-foot wall, somebody will find a 51-foot ladder,” she is reported as having told reporters. The New York Times noted that she has been a critic of the delays in the “virtual fence” program that would tie in sensors and cameras and perimeter-intrusion detection technology to automate detection of illegal border crossings. While the border is not the end-all of U.S. Homeland Security concerns, Napolitano -- a Democrat -- at least seems to know what a porous border means for our states but also what’s realistic in border protection.

In other news
Obama cell records breached, ASIS pushes forward on biz continuity, pirate base destroyed

Verizon Wireless workers, the company has admitted, used their inside positions to breach the cell phone records of Barack Obama while he was campaigning. … Survey data from Unisys indicates that right up until the news about our nation’s economic downturn, our fellow citizens were more interested in national security than the economy. … Two Chinese engineers, one a U.S. citizen and one who was not, have entered guilty pleas in their corporate espionage case. According to the case, the Chinese men had stolen technical data on computer chips. The espionage victimized companies such NEC Electronics, Sun Microsystems, Trident Microsystems and Transmeta Corporation. … ASIS International is working to adapt British standards on business continuity planning and management. … The Arizona Alarm Association is now a member of the NBFAA. … The NYPD and the Department of Justice are sparring over domestic surveillance, with the DOJ saying the NYPD is trying to break the laws that control domestic surveillance, and with the NYPD saying the DOJ doesn’t want the PD to protect its city. … The hijacked oil supertanker, The Sirius Star, is being held for a $10 million ransom by the pirates. The reported value of the oil cargo alone is approximately $100 million. On a positive note, India’s navy is reported to have destroyed a ship which had been a floating home base for some of the area’s pirates. Insurance premiums for these shipping companies, however, are now on the rise due to this security risk.

Finally, we close with a look at the most read stories of the week: