'Businesses are worried': Expert looks into crackdown on shoplifting

'Businesses are worried': Expert looks into crackdown on shoplifting

Andrew Hyman
Updated: November 24, 2019 07:10 PM
Created: November 24, 2019 05:32 PM

ROCHESTER N.Y. (WHEC) — A recent local shoplifting scheme has a retail expert taking a hard look at how businesses can fend off unwanted company.

This week's crackdown on an alleged shoplifting and fencing scheme highlighted a major danger for area retailers.


"I think companies are worried, businesses are worried," said Deborah Colton-Hebert.

Colton-Hebert, an associate professor of marketing and international business at the Rochester Institute of Technology, says that with the holiday season approaching, businesses are seeing rising levels of theft along with all the traffic.

On Thursday, federal investigators busted what they say was a scheme to sell shoplifted merchandise through two local pawn shops.

Experts say shoplifting is a bigger problem around Rochester than you might think.

"This cycle of theft and re-sale has resulted in Monroe County having some of the highest incidents of retail theft in the country," said U.S. Attorney James Kennedy Jr.

Colton-Hebert says this trend can hit a business hard, not only in its bottom-line but in company reputation.

“If all your focus is on the negative of watching out for shoplifters and worrying about the shrink, it can have really bad morale," she said.

If the loss in revenue means stores have to raise prices, Colton-Hebert says that bad morale can hit customers with more costs and an uncomfortable shopping experience.

"They feel like they're almost being targeted, even though they've done nothing wrong," she said.

To combat the problem, she says a business must invest in safety and security improvements. From teaching employees how to better spot potentially suspicious behavior to improving the presence of security devices. 

But there's a catch.

“You don't want them lining down the aisle where you feel like you're like everybody's guilty," said Colton-Hebert.

To avoid going too far, she says it just takes a little awareness and planning.

"You want to have awareness for current existing happy customers, and also those ill-intended customers," said Colton-Hebert.

If the men are convicted in the shoplifting scheme investigators say they face a maximum of 20 years in federal prison.

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