Retail crime has been around as long as retail itself. But in recent years, it seems as though everything from shoplifting to organized retail crime has been on the rise.

Lori Buss Stillman, vice president of research and education for NACS, said there are many variables that contribute to this unsettling trend.

“Certainly, the economic downturns and financial instability being seen across the country are a factor, as well as the increases we’re seeing in organized crime,” she said. “Whether out of financial desperation or pure greed, the acts of theft that plague the retail landscape are growing at an untenable pace. And the changes seen across the country with regard to the reduced police presence and more lax felony laws can embolden those committing acts of retail theft.”

To explore what retailers can do about this growing problem, Stillman will be joined by Britt Davidson, director of risk for Maverik, and Brian Coleman, manager of loss prevention and security at Wawa, for the session “Securing the Retail Landscape: A Roundtable on Crime Prevention and Loss Mitigation” on Thursday from 9:15-10:15 a.m. in room A315.

One of the first steps a retailer can take in responding to pressure from consumers to deal with the crime issue, Stillman explained, is to simply let them know what you are already doing.

“It starts with being better storytellers of the actions they already have in place,” she said. “Customers feel safer in stores where the forecourt is clean and well-lit; where windows are not blocked by excessive signage and sight lines inside the store remain clear. Increasing staff training, heightening focus on customer engagement and customer service and maintaining strong relationships with local law enforcement can all contribute positively to addressing consumer safety concerns.”

In addition to employee training, store design and other operational changes, technology can and does play an increasingly big role in store security. This includes developments in areas like video analytics and artificial intelligence.

“Utilizing cameras that can passively monitor and detect patterns of behavior that may indicate criminal intent or unusual behavior is a great first line of defense,” Stillman said. “Another growing trend is the use of personal, wearable devices. These provide enhanced monitoring for frontline workers to add an additional layer of safety. We’re seeing more and more retailers look to these—especially for third-shift workers.”

Retailers who join Thursday’s session will have an opportunity to participate in roundtable discussions. Tables will be identified by store size and topic, allowing session participants to ideate and share with industry peers.