Organized retail crime (ORC) has entered a new era that threatens retailers’ best attempts to keep their employees safe and customers coming back.

Retail security measures can no longer depend on person-to-person defensive shrink strategies. To combat this ever-increasing challenge, retailers must get proactive across all five zones of retail influence. Zone 4 in particular, the parking lot and surrounding areas, is especially important for stopping ORC. 

Understanding the five zones of retail influence

Security experts design systems and processes to stop bad actors. For many retail security leaders, the playbook starts with the Five zones of influence.

The five zones, as defined by the Loss Prevention Research Council, spotlight concentric zones that offenders must cross to steal merchandise. Security professionals should develop proactive plays within each zone to deter criminals instead of reactive attempts to stop a crime already in progress. 

The five zones are:

  • Zone 1: Anything touching a target (product, person, or other assets) in its precise location. Zone 1 includes product packaging and the shelving or fixture that a product is displayed on.
  • Zone 2: Where targets are located inside the store, such as fitting rooms, counters dedicated to specific merchandise (like makeup or high-tech devices) and shopping aisles.
  • Zone 3: Inside the store and all entrances.
  • Zone 4: The parking lot and its perimeter, including entrances, landscaping, surrounding streets and store curtilage.
  • Zone 5: The store’s local community as well as its web presence, online platforms and social channels.

All risk assessments, asset protection strategies and security technologies must empower leaders to investigate threats, interrogate hypotheses and enact processes to address the challenges unique to each zone. 

Defend zone 4 to stop ORC

Parking lots provide open access for everyone and are often not designed to consider crime prevention tactics. This makes them difficult to control. 

By implementing proactive strategies in zone 4, however, retailers have an unmatched opportunity to stop ORC offenders. A parking lot is where perpetrators must enter and leave, and it’s where the getaway car often waits. Using the right mix of tools and strategies in this zone can deter bad actors or collect information that helps local authorities catch criminals if an incident occurs.

Effective deterrence begins when a potential threat enters the perimeter. This is when all security operations in place must demonstrate the impression of control and add friction to the would-be criminal's experience. The following tactics are proven to work:

  • Maintain the parking lot cleanliness: The broken windows theory applies to store parking lots. The first line of defense is to keep an orderly parking lot without garbage, loiterers, or shopping carts strewn about. A well-maintained parking lot shows that the business cares about its customer experience and may have more store or security personnel than other stores. 
  • Implement video surveillance: Security cameras in the parking lot play an integral role in identifying potential bad actors and catching criminals after an incident. If a known perpetrator drives into a parking lot, for example, security technology can scan the license plate and alert in-store security professionals. All footage can also be used to gather details on perpetrators.
  • Enable parking lot announcements: Speakers placed within the parking lot, such as on light poles or affixed to other security equipment, can be used to issue audio alerts to potential perpetrators and reinforce that legal actions will be taken against them if they do not leave immediately. This allows store security professionals to potentially de-escalate a situation while other personnel head toward the parking lot or alert authorities.  
  • Partner with local law enforcement: Implementing the above measures will show that a business is committed to taking the necessary steps to stop crime. To bring everything together, retailers must partner with local police to get ahead of bad actors based on information from zone 4 surveillance. Provide security recordings and details about a bad actor that could help police catch them.

Zone 4 defense creates diversions that not only prevent someone from reaching zone 3, but also force a criminal to calculate the risk versus reward quickly.

Stay proactive with parking lot security

In many cases, organized retail crime syndicates are more organized than retailers. The increase in ORC and associated violence requires retailers to invest in security strategies that will protect their bottom line and long-term viability.

The parking lot is often overlooked in security strategies, but it can provide one of the best opportunities to deter crime and keep a store safe.