The goal of the CEC Correct program is to divert first time shoplifting offenders into a corrective educational system, which helps saves time for loss prevention staff as well as reduces the burden placed on the criminal justice system.
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According to the 25th Annual Retail Theft Survey recently released by loss prevention consulting firm Jack L. Hayes International, shoplifting and employee theft apprehensions increased by 7.4 percent and 5.5 percent respectively in 2012. In fact, more than 1.1 million shoplifters and dishonest employees were apprehended by the 23 major retailers who took part in the survey. Not only do these incidents impact the bottom line for retailers in terms of shrink, they are also a burden on the resources of stores’ loss prevention staff, as well as law enforcement when you consider what goes into making the apprehension and processing the alleged offender through the criminal justice system.
Utah-based Corrective Education Company is looking to reduce that burden by offering retailers a free solution when it comes to apprehending and processing what would be considered “low risk” offenders. Under the CEC Correct program, which is either fully deployed or piloted by 10 retailers across the country, loss prevention officers in stores would be issued iPads and fingerprint scanners for on-site offender processing. After running the offender’s name through an online database to determine whether or not they are repeat shoplifter, the loss prevention officer would then be able to assess whether or not that person is qualified to take part in the program, which is an online educational course designed to reduce recidivism.
“When a shoplifter is apprehended and the detention process starts, the (loss prevention agent) is using our iPad application to gather mugshots, fingerprints and then we go out and disposition the offender – meaning we’re going to go out and verify whether they’re giving us the right name and address and we check criminal background databases to see if they are a previous offender,” explained Jeff Mitchell, CEO of Corrective Education Company. “We’re building our own database that is not only for that retailer, but at the discretion of the retailer, can be shared across other retailers as well.”
According to Mitchell, CEC is looking to identify first time offenders, which he said makes up about 80 percent of all shoplifters, and divert them into the corrective program.
“What happens is the individual is shown a video, if they qualify, and we assure all of their civil rights because this is a totally voluntary program,” he said. “The individual can elect to take our pre-complaint, restorative justice option, which eliminates the need for intervention from law enforcement on low-risk offenders; and allows limited police time to focus on more critical matters. The retailer is not going to prosecute nor are the police going to be pulled into the crime, but what they’re going to do is sign an admission of guilt on the iPad and that they want to go into our corrective program. At that point we take over. We give them 90 days to get through what is basically a six to eight-hour corrective educational program.”
The remaining 20 percent that are either felons, part of organized retail crime rings or repeat offenders will follow the retailer’s protocols, which usually involves the criminal justice system. Mitchell said those who do qualify and choose to take the CEC Correct program, will pay a fee for what it is six-unit educational course based on “criminogenic” needs. According to Mitchell, these six units consist of; an assessment of the individual and an explanation of the program’s goals; the “wrong road ahead,” which discusses the impact of shoplifting on the community and the individual’s life; “a better future,” which talks about the person’s ability to overcome obstacles in their life without resorting to crime; “change your behavior” is the program’s cognitive behavior component that aims to change the person’s way of thinking about crime and reducing the rate of recidivism; “living healthy,” which looks at developing important life and career skills; and, the last unit of the program is creating a personal action plan for the individual.
CEC says the program has proven to reduce apprehension time and expenses incurred by retailers by 50 to 80 percent. Mitchell said the company only works with retailers, as well as law enforcement and prosecutors to gain understanding and support from all stakeholders in the system. Given the huge budget constraints and issues like AB-109 realignment in California, support from the criminal justice system has been positive as the program is seen as a “force multiplier” for communities.
One of the benefits of having iPads in the hands of loss prevention officers is that enables them in a matter of 20 or 25 minutes to decide who should be turned over to the authorities or potentially qualify for this program. Mitchell said loss prevention personnel spend a significant amount of their time processing shoplifting suspects and waiting for police; this solution would give retailers the ability to have them back out working in the stores where they belong and are the most valuable.
“We’re able to integrate to their case management system and their apprehension databases. We also get all of their previous three, four or five years’ worth of data that they will send to us electronically and we’ll update our databases so we have all of their prior offenders as we’re trying to disposition these individuals,” Mitchell added. “For the retailer, if you end up detaining someone, hand-writing everything down, you’re waiting for the police and you’ve got a witness – you’re taking anywhere from two to three hours to get through that process whereas we’re processing the individual with our program in less than 25 minutes with the goal of getting the agents back on the floor. Today, we catch one out of every 46 shoplifters, which isn’t a very good batting average. Additionally, this does not preclude the retailer from pursuing civil recovery.”
Mitchell said the company, which recently showcased the program at the NRF Loss Prevention conference in San Diego, has thus far received positive reviews from people inside the industry.
“It has been very well adopted and supported and it makes a lot of sense because everyone wins; the retailer, the criminal justice system and the offender,” Mitchell said.