Shoplifting Has Become a Real Estate Problem

By Franco Faraudo

Shoplifting is likely one of the most commonplace crimes. Many people, even ones you would never expect, have made a conscious decision to take something from a store without paying for it. Retailers were quick to install cameras and hire entire teams of security staff in stores to catch and punish shoplifters. But these measures have proven to be less and less effective.

In 2022 alone, American retailers lost an estimated $94.5 billion dollars to theft. Almost half of this theft is attributed not to casual shoplifters but to organized retail theft gangs. These gangs often strike a store all at once, overwhelming security staff and making any police investigation much more difficult.

The problem has gotten so bad that retailers are deciding to pull out of certain store locations. Target has announced that it will close nine stores throughout the country due to criminal activity. Nike has decided to close one of its factory stores in Portland that has been in business for almost 40 years. This is likely only the beginning.

This threatens not only retailers but also the landlords that lease space to them. While it might seem like there isn’t much that a landlord can do when even local police forces are not up to the task, that might not be true. According to retail theft experts, the problem is that retailers have focused too much on catching thieves and not enough on deterring them. “The first thing we look at is, can we detect these people and identify them before there are victims?” said Dr. Read Hayes, director of the Loss Prevention Research Council, a think tank comprising of researchers, retailers, technology companies, manufacturers, and law enforcement professionals. “We’re trying to get the offender or crew to say, ‘Not here, not now, this doesn’t feel right.'”

This can only be done with help from the landlord. Things like license plate readers, computer vision-equipped cameras, and automatic lighting can help prevent merchandise theft. I suspect it won’t be long until we start to see these kinds of security features advertised in retail real estate marketing material soon.

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