GPS technology helps Mac’s Convenience Stores fight back against cigarette theft.
By Sean Sportun
The convenience store environment is a unique business model for a security professional. So, when it comes to preventing crime and protecting our employees we know we need to consistently evaluate our current practices and think outside the box.
Two of the most challenging security risks to manage in our setting are the prevention of targeted thefts and robberies. The steady price increase of tobacco over the last few years, coupled with its quick resale value has contributed to this product becoming an increasingly popular target for criminals and organized retail crime rings.
Although lucrative for criminals, retailers lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in profit due to these crimes, but more importantly, these incidents often cause other collateral damage to profits such as:
- Lost sales while store is closed, or while police are processing a crime scene.
- Employee injury or trauma resulting from the aftermath and stress of robberies.
- Damage to stores if criminals use destructive means such as smash and grab assaults to steal inventory.
Observing this new trend evolve and facing an elevated level of crime (and loss) related to tobacco crime, at Mac’s Convenience Stores, we took a proactive approach to address the issue in the winter of 2014.
The concept was simple.
TECHNOLOGY AT WORK
With crime prevention being an integral part of Mac’s corporate responsibility and seeking a solution to both recover stolen inventory and apprehend offenders to prevent future crime; Mac’s approached the firm 3Si Security Systems for that solution.
Using existing GPS technology and the idea of covertly housing the device inside either a single package or carton of cigarettes, 3Si developed a new innovative product called the Tobacco Tracker for Mac’s.
The Tobacco Tracker is designed to protect convenience stores 24/7. 3Si provides support from the criminal event to the apprehension, and everywhere in between. This collaborative relationship allowed 3Si and Mac’s to:
- Identify and install the device in high risk stores;
- Train police to respond to crime events involving the Tobacco Tracker; and
- Assist police to apprehend suspects and recover the stolen assets.
With the concept developed, on May 9, 2014, Mac’s installed the Tobacco Tracker in two locations. The first robbery events occurred on July 11, 2014 and in both cases, the trackers worked, leading to one suspect being caught.
The successes have continued and to date a total of 22 suspects—nine of which were serial offenders who had victimized other c-store and pharmacy retailers before being apprehended—have been taken off the streets thanks to the tracking program.
Mac’s has since expanded the program across central and western Canada, tying the 3Si Website into its existing Monitoring Center and offering real time track support and video support to law enforcement.
The successes for Mac’s have been tremendous. Not only has this program resulted in product recovery and offender apprehensions, but it has also enhanced the sense of employee safety at store level, gained support from tobacco vendors and reinforced Mac’s partnership with police services across Canada.
The tracker is successful for several reasons. It is hidden covertly along with other tobacco inventory so the criminals don’t have any idea they are stealing a tracker. The tracker activates on motion to ensure the theft is detected when the criminal demands merchandise from the clerk.
Using 3Si’s secure Website, the criminal is tracked, allowing police to locate and apprehend the suspect. Typically, offenders are caught within 20-30 minutes of committing the crime. Trackers take less than 20 minutes to install, so stores are protected immediately.
Trackers are also quick and easy to charge. Simple and easy training also allows for safe employee deployment, and assists in reducing the likelihood of false activations.
Sean Sportun, ICPS, is the manager, security & loss prevention at Mac’s Convenience Stores in central Canada. He can be reached at [email protected].