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Retailers Ramp Up Holiday Shopping Safety Measures After Wave of Violence, Thefts

Several mall shootings this weekend have cast a shadow on the busy after-Thanksgiving rush to stores as some retailers across the country deal with flash mob robbery sprees that have put a damper on holiday cheer.

On Friday, three people were shot, including a 10-year-old, and another three were injured during the subsequent evacuation at The Streets at Southpoint Mall in Durham, North Carolina, police said. All six people were treated for non-life-threatening injuries, Durham Police Chief Patrice Andrews said during a news conference on Friday.

Also on Friday, one person was hospitalized with serious injuries after being shot at a Tacoma, Washington mall that subsequently closed its doors to Black Friday shoppers for the night, authorities said.

These shootings are coupled with six reported “smash-and-grab” thefts on Black Friday in the Los Angeles area. Police in Los Angeles were on a “city-wide tactical alert” Friday night due to these increased robberies, authorities said. The alert followed a robbery at the Bottega Veneta store in the Melrose area, where an unknown number of items were reportedly taken by a large group of people.

A Home Depot store was also hit on Friday. According to L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, a group of about eight people stole hammers, sledgehammers and crowbars, amounted to around $400.

If this activity sounds familiar, it’s because it is. Roughly 80 people were involved in a smash-and-grab theft earlier this month at the Nordstrom store at Broadway Plaza in Walnut Creek, California, and a Louis Vuitton store in Chicago was also hit this month by over a dozen people, grabbing about $120,000 worth of merchandise.

This string of rising crime has sparked concerns on how retailers are addressing the safety of its customers, employees, and merchandise as the holiday shopping season heats up.

Nordstrom, which has been heavily affected by these flash mob robberies is beefing up its security efforts. A Nordstrom spokesperson told FN in a statement that, “The safety of our employees and customers is always our top priority, and it’s important to us that we create a store environment where everyone feels safe and welcome. Given recent incidents at our stores and incidents across the industry, we’re heightening our in-store security presence and implementing additional protective measures to keep everyone safe.”

To accomplish this, the Seattle-based retailer said it is “positioning security personnel inside and outside of our stores” and “working closely with mall security and law enforcement to anticipate and minimize risk.” The spokesperson also noted that it has implemented enhanced training and protocols “designed to ensure all our teams feel prepared to respond in the event of a safety incident.”

Another major department store chain that wished to remain anonymous as to not disclose specific security measures, told FN in a statement that it “deploys both visible and plain clothed security personnel in its locations” and “coordinates closely with mall security, local and national law enforcement agencies, in assessing risk and response.” The retailer added that “we take these situations very seriously, as health and safety of our colleagues and customers are our top priority.”

Over at New Jersey’s American Dream mega-mall, a company representative told FN that the shopping center has added additional security and K9 units for the holiday season in result to current (crime) trends. The representative went on to state that the mall has a team that “collaborates with our retail partners on loss prevention” and have “implemented an extremely successful system” designed to identify shop lifting and prevent it while in progress. Additionally, American Dream also has a “partnership with law enforcement to stay informed on New Jersey/New York as well as national crime trends. The goal is always to stay informed in order to maintain a safe environment,” the representative added.

Organized retail crime now costs retailers an average of $700,000 per $1 billion in sales, and three-fourths of retailers saw an increase in organized retail crime in 2020, according to the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) 2020 Organized Retail Crime Survey. More than two-thirds of retailers said the pandemic increased the overall risk for their company, according to NRF’s 2021 National Retail Security Survey, and 57% indicated a rise in organized retail crime.

The survey also noted that 65% of respondents in the 2021 survey said organized retail crime gangs now exhibit greater levels of violence and aggression than they have before. While only 29% of retailers reported an average dollar value loss of $1,000 in 2019, that number rose to 50% in 2020. The most common items targeted by organized retail crime gangs include designer clothing, laundry detergent, designer handbags, allergy medicine, razors, high-end liquor, and pain relievers, according to NRF’s survey.

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