Biometrics takes on shoplifters

By Leon Engelbrecht, ITWeb senior writer
Johannesburg, 12 Oct 2007

A US loss prevention expert says the return on investment for prosecuting casual shoplifters is so low that an increasing number of American businesses are not bothering. David Gorman & Associates president and CEO, David Gorman, says there are bigger fish to fry and IT can take care of the minnows.

"Losses through shrinkage is a global problem," he says. However, the trouble does not lie with casual shoplifters, but with the crafty minority that pursue the activity for profit, he adds.

"It is important for retailers to target this group of professionals and use the latest technology to do so." Gorman says facial recognition and other biometrics technologies offer retailers many advantages in the fight against shoplifters.

For example, biometric readings from people entering shops can be compared against a database of known shoplifters. In the case of casual shoplifters, security agents can then intercept them and warn them that they are being watched. Where suspects have been previously caught, they can also be banned from the premises, he adds. The surveillance system will then consistently enable security staff to enforce that ban, not only at one store, but across a variety of outlets nationwide.

Intelligent surveillance can also track client movements around shops and help determine those areas within a store where shoplifters conceal stolen goods. Those areas can be saturated with cameras, warning signs and electronic tripwires that record activities in that area of a shop.

Getting smart

Smart systems can also tell the difference between expected and suspicious activity by shoppers and alert security staff to the latter.

"Honest shoppers don`t see this [as an imposition]. They expect you to do whatever it takes to keep costs down for them," he says.

Smart systems can also be set to guard high-value or frequently stolen items.

Should the suspect have left the shop, technology should be able to track the culprit to the parking area and take note of his or her vehicle`s registration number, Gorman says. By then the store should have been able to intercept the suspect, find the stolen goods and be able to hand that and recorded material to the police for further action.

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