Thursday, April 30, 2009

Getting Even with a Shoplifter-Legally

I got a call from the women’s department because there was a lady who wanted to return an expensive dress without a receipt. This happens sometimes because, when you buy someone a present you’re not going to give them the receipt, are you? In this instance though, the sales associate informed me that the lady told her she’d received the dress a few days before, and it couldn’t be possible because the dresses had arrived on the sales floor of all of our stores that morning.
I told the associate to take the dress, and give the lady a receipt called an “Owned Goods.” That lets us know that the dress belongs to her and that we have it in our possession. She also was told that we had to do some research on the exact price because the original price was much more than the price on the new dresses and we didn’t want to short her.
With a copy of the Owned Goods receipt I then had the customer’s name, address and phone number. Looking at her address, I checked the computer and noted that a branch store less than one mile from her home had six of the dresses in their possession and had sold none. I even knew the sizes of the dresses they should have had on hand. I called the women’s department in that store and after instructing the sales associate there to physically count each dress; she informed me that one was missing. Just so happens it was the same size as the one I had in my possession. Just to be safe I called every store that had the dresses and had a physical count done. All were accounted for except this one.
The next morning the lady called to inquire about the dress and the sales associate transferred the call to me. I informed her that we had a little problem and that she’d have to bring me a receipt to pick up the dress because according to our records the dress had never been sold. She assured me that she’d get the receipt from the person who gave her the dress as a gift.
I thought that would be the end of it but this lady was determined to get us to give her something for this dress. The next time she was in the store, she asked to see me. When I met with her she handed me a receipt for the dress or rather a dress. It had the right stock numbers, class, style and everything, but it didn’t tell me which of our stores it came from or what date. All the important information concerning the location of the store had been torn off the receipt.
I was polite but a little annoyed. I hate when people try to play me as stupid. I told her I would get her dress so she could go get cash for it with the new-found receipt. She was excited. What I really did was call back to all the stores and inquired about who had recently sold this particular dress. A sales associate in the same store the original dress was stolen from remembered the lady and the size of the dress she had just purchased. It’s different from the original dress and I had almost missed that little tidbit on the receipt. Now I was not in a very good mood at all. There was no way I was giving this lady the dress back and on top of that I wasn’t about to give her cash back for the dress she had just bought to fool me. Not a chance.
I went back out and basically informed her that I knew that the original dress had been stolen and from which store. I explained that because of the hefty price of the dress I was forced to file a felony theft report on it. I let it be known that I had intentionally left her name off the report because I thought she’d be smart and let the situation go. However since she was there, I would be happy to let her explain to the local P.D. how she had come in possession of an expensive stolen dress. She wanted no part of this situation now.
I went on to explain that I knew that she had recently purchased the exact same dress from the same store the original came from, and that it really wasn’t wise to try to fool me. In her attempt to defraud the company she had altered the receipt for this dress. Our company policy was that we would not issue a cash return for merchandise if the receipt was altered in any way. I thought with that she was going to cry, because now even if she returns the dress she paid for, the only thing she’ll get in return is a “MO” credit which stands for merchandise only. This means that the credit she receives will only be good to purchase more merchandise at one of our stores. She should have quit while she was ahead

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Catching employees who Steal

We conduct integrity checks on our employees on a regular basis. Basically, I select an employee and I try to tempt them into stealing something. Some take the bait, some don’t. In order to select employees who may be more apt to take the bait, you may have to do some research to see exactly what motivates them. With some, it can be cash, others, merchandise. It all depends.
A good investigator once told me, every time he observed an employee hugging or lying on a register, he’d conduct an integrity check on that associate. His logic was, whenever an employee displayed that type of affection for the register, he/she was actually stating that the register and its contents belonged to that person. I don’t know about all that, but, for shits and grins, I decided to test his theory.
On my way to my office one day, I observed an employee leaning on a register. She was standing behind the register with her arms folded and resting on the top of the register. I took note and went to personnel to check her schedule for the week so I could attempt to prove or disprove my friend’s theory.
With the help of personnel, I arranged for the associate to open a register in a department by herself the next morning. The register also happened to be under surveillance by my office at that time. I had installed a camera in the ceiling above the register, two weeks earlier, to rid myself of another dishonest employee. Every register had a Plexiglas tile over it in the ceiling. The Plexiglas tile was tinted and you couldn’t tell if there was a camera in it or not. The funny thing was, sometimes there was, and sometimes, there wasn’t. The video footage from this vantage point was phenomenal; I could see directly inside the register drawer and everything on the counter. I could even see the denomination of the bills as they were counted.
After leaving personnel, I visited the cashier cage and they issued me a crisp new fifty dollar bill (which I had to sign for) and we both made note of its serial number.
About an hour after the store was closed for the night, I returned with my keys and alarm codes. I opened the register the associate would be using the next morning. Per company policy, each register had no less than $100.00 and no more than $100.99 each night before closing. The bills were supposed to be in different denominations (so employees couldn’t get lazy and only keep five 20's or ten 10's). It had to be that way so that when the register was opened for business, the associate had change for any bill a customer might tender first thing in the morning.
On this particular night, the register had two $20 dollar bills, three $10 dollar bills, two $5 dollar bills, twenty $1 dollar bills and some coin change. I counted the ones again, and feeling this would be the best place to insert a misplaced bill, I removed a small piece of my chewing gum, affixed it to the back of the $50 bill and pressed it against a $1 bill. Then I placed this in the middle of the stack of $1s.
The next morning, I was first to enter the store. I proceeded to my office before any employee could note that I was on site. While in the office, I could observe the whole store, so I sat there and watched until I could follow the associate to her register.
After getting situated, she opened the register and began to count the cash inside. When she got to the ones, she located the $50 and looked at it very closely. She placed it to the side and recounted the $1s again. Then, to make sure that she’d counted right, she recounted the whole register again. Now, by policy, she had approximately 30 minutes to contact the cashier’s cage and alert them to any overage or shortage in the register she just opened. She closed the register with the fifty dollar bill still sitting on the side. She looked around, and before pocketing it, she did something, that, to this day, I’ve never understood. She looked up to the black Plexiglas square above her head, right into the camera, as if to say, “Did you see that?”
For some reason, all employees do that before they do something stupid. I don’t know if it’s a prayer, hoping there’s nothing in the box, or, if they are simply saying to us, “Ok, come and get me.”
I pride myself in being a fair and open-minded person. At least, that’s what I tell myself. With employees, I am less patient than I am with shoplifters, but sometimes, I make exceptions. As soon as she pocketed the cash, I could have gone straight to the department and arrested her. However, I was trying to be nice, so, I allowed her the complete thirty minutes as store policy dictated. I was hoping she would have a conscience and return the cash.
Needless to say, those thirty minutes came and went, and she had not developed any remorse or conscience about stealing from her employer, not even when the police department escorted her through the store with cuffs on.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Tale of the $6.00 per Hour Security Guard

Once, I worked as a guard for a company that had a Government contract. It was really easy, but the pay was lousy. I made $6.00 per hour. Every day, I’d get the paper when I got off and look for another job. The guys I worked with thought I was crazy.
Late night, we’d stand around and talk. They were basically happy making peasant wages. Not me, every night, I’d tell them I was getting out of here the first chance I got.
Guys would ask me, “Where you going to go and make more money than this working security?”
I’d tell them I was worth more than six bucks; I was going to find a job for at least twice that. They’d all laugh and say, “There are no $12.00 jobs in security,” and that I should stop dreaming and get back to work.
Then one morning, just about the same time I got into bed after the night shift, the company I worked for called. The personnel lady informed me that my security clearance papers hadn’t been filled out properly and they wanted me to come in right then and correct them so they could conduct the background check.
Now, I’m not a fool; I knew that this clearance was going to cost them at least ten thousand dollars and they wanted to pay me six fucking dollars. I told the lady that there wasn’t a whole lot I’d do for six dollars, and getting out of bed to drive thirty minutes to fill out a form was one of the things I would not do. I hung up the phone.
When I got back to work that night, the supervisor came to me and inquired about the forms. I told him the same thing I’d told the lady on the phone. Then the asshole asked me why I had to be so belligerent. At that moment, I gave my two weeks’ notice.
Later, we were outside having our normal talk, and all the other officers again told me there were no twelve dollar jobs, and that the company we worked for was a good company, and that I should go fill out the form and stay.
I did my two weeks and told them all to take care; I was going to find me a good paying security job.
The next day, I landed a job for $13.00! I worked for a couple of months and, one day, I was on my way home from work when I decided to stop in and check on my old friends. I pulled up and they all came out and asked how things were going.
I explained how I had landed a new job and what it paid. They all got excited and I told them that there were no more thirteen dollar jobs, I got the last one. Before I left, I also informed them I was waiting on my weapons permit and that I was in line for another job that paid eighteen dollars an hour. They almost went into shock. I laughed all the way home.
Several months later, after I had started working my new job, I dropped by to check on them again. This time, I was driving a shiny new 300ZX. I pulled up and they didn’t have a clue who the fuck I was. They all stood there looking to see who was in the car.
I got out and they almost fainted. I told them about my latest job and its eighteen dollar pay, and they almost shit. They wanted to know how they could get a position at the new place. “Sorry,” I told them, “they have no more eighteen dollar positions. I got the last one.”
But, before I left, I couldn’t help but explain to them about the new position I had accepted. I’d taken a position overseas that paid a whopping seventy thousand dollars! They couldn’t believe it.
The moral to this story is, if you feel like six bucks is all you’re worth, then six dollars is all you’ll ever get.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Why I arrested my best friends girlfriend

One of our LP managers had a problem with an employee who was ripping off merchandise on Saturdays, which happened to be the manager’s day off. When I found out about it, I asked her why she didn’t call me so I could come in and take care of it. Well, the girl in question was the girlfriend of my best friend, and he himself was a LP manager at one of our other stores. I explained that I didn’t have a problem with it and she’d be treated like any other suspect. The case became mine.
The first Saturday, I came in and positioned myself in a tower behind a display so that I’d have a clear view of her department all day. Well, that didn’t work because all hell broke lose during the shift. The first major call I got was a customer attempting to walk out the store with some comforters that he hadn’t paid for. I caught his ass on the escalator, tall ass brother with two expensive comforters and no store bags. I jumped on the escalator behind him and gently whispered something to the effect that, if, he attempted to leave the store without paying for the merchandise, he’d have to deal with me. He never said a word, never turned around. When the escalator got to the bottom, he dropped the merchandise on the floor and headed straight out the door. First crisis over!
I got back into position. As soon as I was settled, I got a call that a customer had a gun. Damn! I left my perch and went to check on the situation. I got to the department just as the guy was exiting the store. The department manager walked with me, telling me what the guy had said and done in the department. Not his lucky day. I walked outside and the first cop that came by, I relayed the info to him. They picked his dumb ass up for aggravated assault. By the time everyone had finished with their statements, the day was over. The girl I came to watch, she smiled and waved on her way out the door. I swear, I couldn’t remember, but, I thought those sunglasses she had on belonged to us. Oh well, one thing about a successful thief, they are like satisfied customers. They always come back.
The next Saturday, I met her when she entered the store. I walked her to her department so I could make a mental note of everything she had on and in her possession. I instructed store management that I was working on an internal case; I was not to be disturbed unless it was absolutely necessary. The first couple of hours in my perch were boring. The fun started when the girl working with her in the department went on a break. She made her way over to the costume jewelry counter and removed a pair of earrings. She did the whole bit and placed them beside her ear while looking into a mirror. No doubt, she was looking for me. She then removed the earrings from the backing and put them on. I had to admit they looked pretty good on her. She then put the backing in the drawer under her register.
Later, she walked into the women’s clothing department, next to where she worked, and selected a pink jacket. She took it back to her department and put it on. When she tried on that jacket, everything clicked. I knew then what was different when she left the store the week before. It was a tan scarf. I didn’t notice it when she left because I was so busy, but I could see it vividly in my mind. Also, it didn’t hurt that the same scarf was hanging in the department next to where she got the jacket.
So what she’d do was, the day before, select the items she wanted to steal. She’d wear something that would match the item she was going to take and no one would notice because it didn’t come from her department anyway. She put that pink jacket on, and I swear, it matched her outfit perfectly. My heart started beating fast, especially when she started looking for scissors to cut off the tag. When she couldn’t find a pair in her department, she simply tucked the tag inside the sleeve.
Everything was cool until the girl working with her came back from break. She said something about the jacket, probably about how pretty it was on her, and my suspect began twirling around in front of the mirror like she was a customer. I knew, at that point, she couldn’t take the jacket because the other girl had commented on it. Damn. But I still had the earrings to hope for.
It’s funny, if you ever go into a loss prevention office, watch the officers work, we go into this cheerleader mode and we become the little voice in the suspect’s head whispering, “Come on, take it, please, nobody will know, nobody.” All the time, we’re rooting for people to fuck up so we can catch them.
Finally, my suspect went on her lunch break which meant she was probably going to be exiting the building. When she went to clock out, I went into her department and retrieved the backing from the earrings.
When she was leaving the building, I managed to run into her but I made no mention of her new earrings. Actually, I could have arrested her as soon as she left the facility with the merchandise. But, management was a little soft and they might believe her story that she’d tried them on and forgot to remove them before she went to lunch. However, when she returned and I faked going to lunch, the earrings mysteriously disappeared.
Now, all I had to do was watch her for the rest of the shift to insure she didn’t try to put the item back without my knowledge. This would be rather difficult since I now had the backing in my pocket.
After a while, I started rooting for her to put the items back, but with less than twenty minutes to go before closing, I didn’t think she would. Damn. Even though I’ve arrested employees before, this one was going to be hard. This was my best friend’s girlfriend; she’d even been to my house, met my girlfriend. Damn. I do have a bit of a conscience.
Shit! I picked up the phone, called my friend, told him the situation, and informed him that I could go downstairs and tell her to give the earrings back and there would be no harm and no foul, or the other option was, I could treat her like all the rest of our suspects and bust her. It became his decision. He didn’t even think about it, he said, “Do your job, bust her dumb ass!”
She exited the store, said goodbye to me and the store manager (who didn’t have a clue what the hell was going on). I followed her outside and arrested her. She cried like a baby. Then, she begged me not to tell her boyfriend and pleaded with me to pick her up from the police station so she didn’t have to call him or her family to get her. I felt bad but I had to explain to her that I couldn’t pick her up because it’d be a conflict of interest. So I told her to call my girlfriend and she’d pick her up from the station.
That was one of the toughest things I had to do in my early years in LP. As for my friend, it didn’t bother him at all. He broke up with her that same day; he told me it was disrespectful for her to be stealing when she knew what he did for a living.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Security Officer gets fired on his day off

Just like any other job, working security is no different. We've all worked along side some strange and interesting people, however in security at times I think we get the abundance of them.

Everyone of us has at one time or another worked with someone whom has done something just so utterly stupid that you didn't know whether to laugh or feel sorry for the poor soul.

So for today I think I'll give you the story of a former co-worker and his ridiculous thought process and you determine which way you feel about his asinine action.

I was working as a Security Police Officer on a USAF installation, and although we were civilians and at the time not considered Sworn Officers (that would come later with a switch to DOD) we were given a whole lot of leeway by the local Police Departments. Hell, we wore uniforms that pretty much mirrored every other PD in the city and with the exception of the Base shoulder patch it was really hard to tell the difference. Even our badges were the same as our local counterparts. Looking back on it I think they gave us the latitude because of our affiliation with the Government, and Uncle Sam carries a big stick! Oh, the pay was pretty much on the same level with every other PD in the area, which didn't hurt.

As for the job, it was a cake walk. Hell, conducting a traffic stop on a military base can be dangerous but not nearly as bad as what the local Pd's dealt with. Yeah we had domestics and drunken drivers and such, but all in all it was a great place to work.

Getting back to the story line here, I was walking down the hallway past the admin offices on my way back to my patrol car and I overheard the the Chief on his phone and he wasn't happy. The part I caught was, "Hell no, we're not conducting a sting operation in that area or any area for that matter." He then ended the conversation with, "Arrest his ass, and confiscate his badge!"

I hurried out the door and jumped into my patrol car because when he finished that call I didn't want to be anywhere in the vicinity. Someone had really screwed up this time and the last thing I wanted was to get chewed out for someone elses stupidity.

I didn't think much more about it and the next day when I returned to work for briefing you probably could guess what the topic was? That's right, and the message was loud and clear. It is no longer permissible to carry your badge off duty!

Well this just sucked, that badge had gotten many of us into night clubs, strip joints and other places without having to pay a cover as well as gotten me for one out of at least two speeding tickets over the years. We had never really thought anything wrong with it. The key was to show it but do it with subtlety. You carry a badge holder that was also a wallet and therefore whenever you had to show ID, you removed the wallet and at the first sight of the badge it was, "Oh, don't worry about paying, come on in." Thank you very much!

After briefing I went up to one of the supervisors and inquired as to what exactly had led to this change in policy.

After laughing for a long while, and I mean a long while this is what he explained to me. One of the officers on his day off had taken his wife to the hair dresser. Knowing that she would be there for several hours he decided to drive around looking for something to occupy his time.

Now most of us in the department probably would have found the closest firing range and went in and sent a few down range (we all had concealed permits and most of us carried all the time).

Well not this guy, he wanted to send a few down range but not at the local range. He drives around and sees this woman standing on the corner and like an idiot he pulls over and she walks up to the car. She asks if he'd like a date and he agrees and she gets in the car. She points him to a alley where they can have some privacy and he does just that. However, as soon as he parks the car she reaches for what he thinks is condoms and instead she pulls out a badge! Now the car is surrounded by several other cops and she says, "Your under arrest for soliciting prostitution," without thinking (here I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt, because up until this time he really hasn't been thinking at all) he says to her, "No you're under arrest we're running a sting in this area to stop prostitution", and he pulls out his badge to prove it.

This was all about the time I was heading to my patrol car and the Chief was on the phone, because of course the PD had to check it all out to see if they could cut the guy some slack as well as show some professional courtesy. Unfortunately for the officer, or former officer the Chief wasn't trying to hear it.

Every time I think about this story I think to myself, "How in the hell do you get fired on your day off?"

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A strange security officer meeting

I accepted a position as Assistant Director of Security at a Mall on the Las Vegas Strip. I've been in security for quit awhile working my way up the ladder and although I've had many positions that were challenging, I knew from meeting the first officer at the property this would by far be my biggest challenge.
I pulled up into the parking garage and I called the Director on the phone to inform him that I had arrived. He however was stuck in typical Vegas traffic and informed me that he would be along shortly.
Being my first day I didn't want to enter the facility until he arrived to introduce me to the troops. I decided to stay in my car for awhile and wait for his arrival. After several minutes I figured I'd get out of the car and walk around the level of the garage I was on just to pass time. I was standing near the ledge of the floor looking out over East Las Vegas toward UNLV when a voice behind me stated, " It's not worth it, don't jump." I looked back to see a young officer from the property walking toward me. I immediately said that jumping had never occurred to me because life was way too precious to waste. He laughed and we quickly began a conversation.
I asked him how long he'd worked in security and he informed me that he had worked for this particular company for several years. Then without warning he went on to tell me how bad the company was and how he hadn't been given a pay increase for two years.
I asked him if he'd talked to the Director about the over site? He said that he had but he'd still not received one and that now it didn't matter because he and his brother were working on a sales business that he knew would get him out of security for good. I wished him well. He still had not asked, nor did he have any idea whom I was and since he was now on a negative roll I wasn't going to tell him anyway.
He continued on by telling me about his girlfriends, both past and present and how they had cheated on him and so on.
About ten minutes into this conversation I was beginning to second guess my acceptance of the position. I began to make excuses about waiting for my friend and I dropped hints that he should continue on his rounds but nothing seemed to work. He continued to talk and it began to wear on my nerves.
Finally I decided I had by this time enough so I began to walk back towards the sanctity of my car. I told the officer to take care and walked away. Wouldn't you know it, he followed me, talking the whole way.
By this time I'd heard how lousy the security department and company was, all the way to how lousy his girlfriend and former girlfriends were to how he'd once beat up a co-worker whom had made fun of him.
I politely got into my car, bid him farewell and started the engine. He stood there as if we weren't finished yet. In the end I had to put the vehicle in gear and drive away as if I were leaving the garage just to get away from him.
I finally settled for a spot on a different floor and although it made my walk to the Security Department a little further away it was worth it to get away from this officer.
A few minutes after I parked the Director called me and asked me to meet him on the floor I had just left. I went to meet him and I told him about my strange encounter with one of the officers and he was laughing so hard I thought he'd pass out. In the middle of the laughter the officer walks around the corner and sees me walking with the Director and he almost shit a brick. He quickly did an about face and scurried off in a different direction. The Director is still laughing and now he's laughing harder because he already knew whom I was talking about even before the officer changed directions right in front of us. The whole time I'm seriously wondering if I made the right career move. Could you blame me?
The next day I walked into the briefing room and introduced myself to the shift. The officer was there and he looked like he wanted to disappear. I explained how I was, how I operated, what I expected to happen over the next three months and how we would work together to get to know one another.
I then went on to explain how as Security officers we are always to remain professional while on the job. I told them it was not wise to air your company related issues to the general public and that to do so was in violation Company policy per their employee handbook. By this time the employee had that fight or flight look on his face.
I went on to explain that if they had issues with pay or vacation or whatever, for them to talk to their supervisor and if he couldn't work it out or explain it then he was to come and see me and together we would get the correct answer.
When I left the room I heard laughter which I expected because by then they had all probably heard the story of how the officer was out shooting of his mouth to the new Assistant Director.
I've been at the same location now for just under a year and a lot has changed. Stepping into the door there were nine supervisors, currently only two of the original supervisors remain. That's what generally happens when a new manager steps in and require that you actually earn your pay. People tend to quit. It's OK though, now other officer have been given the opportunity to step up and they've done a fine job.
The officer I met on my first day? He still works for the company, just not at his original location. He's now at a smaller location to eliminate the amounts of people he can interact with.
The job at this point is rewarding and now fun. It makes me laugh that on the first day I was questioning my decision. I'm really happy I'm here now.

Friday, April 11, 2008

"Observe and Report" in Stores Now

Security Specialist Tells All

For most of us, security is an area we know little about—yet one that impacts us all. Thanks to years of Hollywood stereotyping, security officers have been painted as uneducated slackers, incapable of obtaining a real job. The truth of the matter is that most of these disrespected “slackers” know more about security than your average police officer. Unless you work as a Security Officer, Detective, or in a law enforcement capacity, you might be shocked to learn the true challenges these underestimated professionals encounter on a daily basis.

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Decades of Security Observations

Michael Oden has seen it all. His more than twenty years of security observations, including Security Police training, Loss Prevention Detection, and security work have earned him the recognition he currently enjoys as an International Security Specialist. As a result of his overseas travels and extensive first-hand experience with law enforcement and security issues, Michael has acquired a unique perspective on what most of will never know—until now!

Observe and Report, the two words that all security officers learn the first day of training, is a comprehensive collection of real-life security stories that gives you a snapshot of reality as seen from the other side of the badge.

We need to look inside the lives of the men and women who work these amazing jobs and hear in their own words what it’s like to do what they do, so that the next time you see a security officer, as you walk to your car in the middle of the night, you just may decide to say, “Thank you.”

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Security Police – The Uniform Code of Military Justice
Security Guards – “Rent-a-Cop” vs. Armed Guard
Loss Prevention – The Hidden Side of Security
Hotel Security – Safety Away From Home
Contract Security – Bridging the Military Security Gap
Security Consultants – Alarming News About Alarm Companies

Security is more than just guarding. From weapons training to report writing, computer skills, interrogation, CCTV (Closed Circuit TV), and much more, the days your father spent as a night watchman, pacing back and forth to no end, are history. Michael Oden sheds light on the true side of security with Observe and Report.

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