TSA Forum Should retail stores use holding rooms as a way of detaining shoplifters?

  7th April 2016 at 7:25am in Retail Security

Should retail stores use holding rooms as a way of detaining shoplifters?

Some retailers use holding rooms, but sometimes they can cause more hostility, are there any other options available to the retail security guard?

Replies (3)

  7th April 2016 at 11:12am

It depends what the room consists of and what else is practical.

A specific room allows for a controlled environment where there is nothing they can damage, there should be CCTV so that their behaviour can be recorded (in case they get violent of allege assault). On the other hand this often leaves the security guard isolated with the detainee.

One other option is to detain them in some other room where there may be hazards to them or other staff. Do you really want the local druggie sitting on the sofa in your staff room?

Or you could just restrain them wherever you get hold of them but that can be a risk to the guard as their mates might attack you, and there is more scope of them escaping.

Whilst some people might get hostile if put in a room that seems like a cell, would those same people be nice if they were controlled any other way? The likelihood is that they kick off because it is at that point that the realise that the game is up and the will be going to a police station. Possibly, some people may behave better detained elsewhere but others may behave worse elsewhere. Frankly, I'm not really bothered how the criminals feel, it is the safety of the security officers that must be paramount.

  9th April 2016 at 7:09am

This is always a contentious subject. Having been an ex Police Officer and having worked with many leading High Street Retailers and major Supermarkets in the past 35 years and been involved in the design, construction and use of 'Security Rooms', I can see the pros and cons of there use. The biggest constraint for most retailers is space, do they give up potential selling space to provide a detention area and in most cases selling space wins out in the end. This means that usually, offenders are then taken to a general office space or warehouse space to be detained until a decision is made whether to call the police or not. If a separate space is provided, it must be sterile and safe, basically a room with minimal furniture all of which must be secured to the floor or walls to prevent using these objects as weapons. Ideally, there should be CCTV coverage and Personal Attack Alarms available for corroboration and safety. One of the most important aspects is the pre training of management, staff and uniformed guards to implement the legal policies for carrying out an rest and lawfully detaining a person in any area.

In conclusion, the reality is that many retailers shy away from providing detention rooms purely because of lack of space and those that do provide them generally don't provide adequate and safe, sterile rooms due to cost implications. Those who do provide the correct environment benefit on the staff safety and control of, what is normally a dangerous and potentially violent situation being well controlled. They normally have the correct procedures in place for dealing with this efficiently, and within the rules of law.

The next big question that needs to be considered is, in retail, is the training of management, staff and uniformed guards adequate to ensure that the evidence is fully available before an arrest is made. In many cases, I have found that most arrests, when left to staff and uniform guards can be dangerously lacking in evidential clarity, backed up by good quality CCTV evidence to allow a successful prosecution to take place. This leaves the retailer wide open to potential legal action for unlawful arrest and can cost tens of thousands of pounds  in compensation. A minefield.

Bill Innes

  9th April 2016 at 9:14am

I think lack of training of staff is a much bigger issue. DS and CP can both do retail and yet get no training in how to deal with shoplifters. Yet even if you do know the law and understand how to record evidence, the shops' own policies vary hugely. Some expect you there simply as a deterrent and you will loose the job if you touch someone. Some expect you to patrol, others insist you don't move from the door.

At one job I was tasked to go to a supermarket for retail security, I was told I'd be briefed by the manager on arrival. I went to customer services and explained who I was. They phoned the manager and he said he didn't need to see me. I told customer service I needed to know what I was expected to do, what the procedures were. They said "The other bloke stands over there and goes for a walk around meat and alcohol occasionally." I asked to see the written procedures only to be told there weren't any. There was no radio and I wasn't allowed to use my mobile phone. This was one of the big UK chains and one of their bigger shops.

Whilst this may seem to be detracting from the initial question, it is related. In many cases shops have security because it reduces their insurance. They do not care about whether that person can do the job or not. They do not care if their procedures or facilities are adequate. It is just a case of sticking a presentable body on the position. Most of the security companies don't care either, they don't assess the job past what they can get paid for it and whether or not they can fill it with one of their own staff or some random person subcontracted from someone else.

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