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Retail Theft, Booster Bags and Facewatch

“With every sale that is lost due to theft, there is an increased cost to the consumer.”

Organized retail theft is an increasing problem sweeping the US, affecting cities such as Chicago. With the struggling economy, thieves are creating more creative ways to steal retail products, costing the retail industry an estimated 33 billion annually, and the average family $400 a year. Thieves communicate through social media, and use tactics like flash mob theft and booster bags. Booster bags, as shown in the video below, are every day shopping bags, purses, etc lined with aluminum foil, that trick security panels at store exits.

Click to view video

Although the above video focuses on Phoenix, AZ, major cities across the US are suffering from organized retail theft, and it’s a big problem for retailers. There are ways to combat organized retail theft.

In the UK, a technology called Facewatch (unrelated to Facebook!), is helping retailers save “tens of millions of pounds”. Facewatch enables users to report low level crimes online. “By instantly providing the full CCTV evidential package and approved witness statement(s) online, Facewatch is enabling retailers, businesses and the police to form a genuine partnership on a national basis for the first time ever.”

Similar to Chicago’s OEMC, John, our security consultant, explains why the UK program Facewatch works, and anticipates similar growth in the security industry here in Chicago.

“The [UK] system has been in place a number of years.  They have been experimenting with facial recognition packages for some time.   With the Olympics scheduled for this summer they have actually rolled out the ideas to general public systems with the intent of leaving them in place. UK is far ahead of everyone in regards to “policy” and “content” control.

UK hit the limit w/ gov’t spending so they have lead the innovative ways communities have taken up the challenge of carrying the ball to the next level. Note here:  Communities actively took up the responsibility to “extend” the systems capabilities and work together with Law Enforcement for a more efficient use.    This is exactly what our Mayor Emanuel is hinting at with “Private” funding.”

Have a security question for John? Email him at

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