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Loss Prevention

Beyond LP: The Evolution of Threats for Retailers

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The past few months have seen a horrific loss of life in shooting incidents around the world.

In mid-September, a gunman opened fire at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., killing a dozen workers. Less than a week later, more than 60 shoppers were killed when terrorists attacked the Westgate Shopping Mall outside Nairobi, Kenya. And in early November, a shooter walked into New Jersey’s Garden State Plaza, fortunately firing only into the air before turning the gun on himself. All of this came against the background of a string of violence that has taken place in schools, shopping malls, movie theaters and business establishments in recent years.

Retailers are all too aware of these incidents, and NRF has been very proactive in leading our industry’s partnership with local, state and federal law enforcement to develop “active shooter” guidelines and other response protocols to protect customers and employees. In October, I represented retailers at a congressional hearing that focused on the attack in Kenya and examined how to keep such incidents from occurring in the United States.

As I explained to the House Homeland Security Committee, shopping malls have been categorized as “soft targets” for terrorist attacks, but retailers are doing their best to harden those targets behind the scenes while keeping them open and hospitable to consumers. Retailers are using technology, partnerships with law enforcement, preparation and training to develop sophisticated protocols to stay ahead of those who wish to do harm to their businesses, employees, customers and brands.

Retailers have always worked closely with agencies like the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency. Working with Homeland Security, the FBI this fall rolled out a schedule of meetings at its field offices across the country where retailers, mall security professionals and emergency response officials were invited to engage in tabletop exercises to discuss and better understand their responsibilities and response protocols in the event of a terror-related attack.

I participated in the first, held in Baltimore. This preemptive strategy demonstrates concern for the well-being of the general public and mitigates risk factors during the busiest shopping season of the year. In addition, the International Council of Shopping Centers is developing training videos based on lessons learned from the 2012 shooting that left two dead at a mall outside Portland, Ore.

Even when an attack is not directed against retailers, our industry often plays a crucial role in helping law enforcement. At no time was this more evident than in the immediate aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing, where footage from a security camera at a retail store helped identify the bombing suspects.

Casual observers might not tie organized retail crime to mall shootings and terrorism. But federal authorities have identified ORC as a funding source for criminal and terrorist organizations overseas. In fact, Homeland Security’s initiative for pursuing ORC links to international criminal organizations is named SEARCH — Seizing Earnings and Assets from Retail Crime Heists.

NRF has tried for years to convince Congress to pass legislation making ORC a federal offense. With ORC clearly tied to terrorism and terrorist attacks on retail now an established fact, we are demanding that it be seen not just as a threat to the economy but to national security as well.

Retailers are in business to sell merchandise and serve the needs of our customers. But our industry’s top priority is always the safety of our customers and employees — whether the threat is a tornado or a terrorist.