How to Reduce Organized Crime by 69%
Guests: Shane Healey, Pete Kepler and Matt Kelley Topics: LiveView Technologies, organized crime, retail theft
Chris Ressa 0:00
This is Retail Retold, the story of how that store ended up in your neighborhood. I’m your host, Chris Ressa, and I invite you to join my conversation with some of the retail industry’s biggest influencers. This podcast is brought to you by DLC Management.
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Welcome to Retail Retold everyone. Today I am joined by Shane Healy, the chief of police for the city of Opelika, Pete Keppler, the Director of Security and Investigations at Advance Auto Parts, and Matt Kelly, Head of Retail at LiveView Technologies. Welcome to the show, guys.
Pete Keppler 0:55
Shane Healy 0:55
Glad to be here.
So this is a unique show for us, we have yet to have anyone on the show talking about security and organized retail crime. And I’m excited for this episode, given how much headline news this is all making today. So thank you for being with us. I want you guys to go around and tell a little bit more about what you all do and who you are. And so we’ll start with Pete.
Thanks, Chris. So my name is Pete Keppler. I’m the Director of Security and Investigations at Advance Auto Parts. I’ve been with Advance for about eight years, and was originally hired in to create and build out an organized retail crime investigations team. And over the course of two or three years I kind of evolved into my current role within the Security Services department.
And it just made sense, right? There were so many overlaps with what the Security Services team was doing and what the Investigations ERC Investigators were getting into. So it just made sense. And it just kind of evolved into one all encompassing group.
Now, you mentioned eight years ago, you were brought in with organized retail crime. And I’ll put this in your brain and talk about the state of the market. We’re just really hearing about organized retail crime as much as we are in the last, like, year.
So to me when I hear that, it sounds like this isn’t the newest phenomenon happening. Maybe it is, but when you said, when you say that it sounds like this might be gaining headline news traction today. But if you were hired eight years ago for this, it’s, it’s not there.
Yes, it’s been going on as long as people have been stealing products and selling it. It’s just, it’s just a different name now. So yeah, I’ll talk on more of that though.
That’s absolutely a good segue. Okay. And Shane, you are the first chief of police to be on the Retail Retold podcast. Thank you for joining us.
Not a problem, I guess, I guess I’m honored to say the least.
So tell us more about who you are and what you do?
Yeah, so my name is Shane Healy. Like you said, I’m the police chief here in Opelika, Alabama, been working for this police department for about 32 years, then a little bit of everything I’ve been through for the last two years. And a big part of the things that we’ve been doing over these last couple of years is really trying to be more involved in the community and being more transparent in our community about what we do, some of how we do that.
And we created a program called Together Up, and a lot of the things that we do fall up under that how can we be the best police department we can be for our community. And when we were asked about participating in, in this project, it was a perfect fit for what we’re trying to do here. We’ve been looking for a great way to, you know, connect with our business partners throughout the city. And this was a perfect opportunity to be able to do that, to try to help provide a better service for our community.
Got it. Matt Kelly.
Matt Kelly 4:29
My name is Matt Kelly. I am Head of Retail for LiveView Technologies. And what that really entails is making sure that LiveView Technologies is in feedback from their customers positioning themselves, each of our customers and develop that partnership. But before I was with LiveView I was with Home Depot for about 10 years where I was responsible for MIT balls before physical security of all their retail locations.
And also within, as sourcing technology to make sure that the needs of the business are met. So we had the right tools and resources for our investigative teams, and also for our frontline associates, to make sure that they were safe and secure when they were operating, but our investigative teams had the right tools and resources to do their jobs on a day to day basis.
So can you tell us a little bit more about LiveView Technologies?
So, LiveView Technologies is a blend of a hardware and software security company that’s really untethered to the power grid, and as a cloud base in terms of how they access video, so it is a unique platform and that is readily deployed, to meet the needs of our customers, and really, the end of the day, is trying to make our customers more safe, more secure, so that they can go home to their families, and just help the community around those retail stores and our customer base.
Well, guys, thank you for that. And for the listeners, you know, Shane mentioned the project Pete, Matt, Shane have all worked together in Opelika, like, on this task force, they’re going to tell you about how they, what they’ve done and how they’ve prevented organized retail crime, which I think is really compelling. Given all the headline news, we have been reading about retail crime, it has made national news more than it’s ever has before.
And one of the things that has astounded me is, as many of you know, I pay attention to what the analysts on the street are saying about retailers, who are our clients at DLC. And this is really, I would call it the first quarter or two you have found, you have seen investors, analysts are starting to pay attention and want to know more about security and know more about what’s going on in organized retail crime.
You know, I made a, I made a joke to Pete and Matt, who had worked on the retail side. And when we did our prep call for this. And I said, you know, could you, when you guys are at retailers, could you ever imagine like the CEO and Pete still is coming up to you wanting to be briefed before an earnings call? Like it just seems so unlikely.
And now it’s front and center. And I guess the question I have for the group and you can take this in any order is, why now? What, what is going on? Why is this so prevalent right now, this organized retail crime? What’s going on in the state of the market here that this is happening? Pete, I’ll go to you.
Wow. And I’m anxious to see what the chief says on this one, too. I’ll tell you, you go back 20 years, right, and you happen to acquire a stack of blue jeans from a retailer, you had about three different ways you could move that product, you could do it through word of mouth, you could sell it out of your trunk. Or you could go to the local flea market, and hope that a local police officer didn’t walk through and ask you where you got him.
Today, it’s just easier to move, stolen product, there’s online avenues. And there seems to be a new one every day. And they’re almost invisible to anybody trying to detect them. So once the the bad guy has the product in their hand, their ability to move, it is so much quicker. And I really think that they’re getting more intelligent, they know what we’re doing. Almost as good as we know what we’re doing. Right there.
We have EAS towers, they bring bags into help the feet, the EAS technology. And in, I think in finally, the penalties from the organized retail crime compared to how lucrative it is, are nowhere near as severe as say the penalties for somebody doing a more violent activity. So I think the risk reward is just very enticing.
It’s really interesting. It’s if I just unpack what you said, it’s being a thief as a more profitable business today than it was in years past. easier way to get it out. They have better technology and the penalties are probably not what people think they are for doing the scrubs.
I tell you what is amazing though, is the progress just in the eight years of my exposure to it. There are municipalities who are really taking a hard line stance and putting a lot of muscle into their organized retail crime statutes. So it’s getting better you You know, and definitely chief can talk to that. But in my opinion, it is getting better.
Yet to piggyback on what Pete said, you’ll see a lot of state level attorney generals now, funding Task Force to combat or see, not only that, but the informat that has gotten past from an online sell secondary market platform, really is trying to put a face to the people who are selling stolen goods online.
So that’s really encouraging to see at the federal and at the state level, they’re starting to take this seriously. And politicians are you can tell when that’s the moving, the needle is starting to get moved, politicians are starting to use this as a, as a platform to get elected.
Yeah, to compound the points that Matt and Pete brought up, I think, on the law enforcement side, as communication develops between retail and law enforcement, and, you know, our legislative side that’s getting involved, as all those avenues of communication open up and get better.
We’re identifying a lot more of these organized regional crime folks, that are retail crime folks that are coming in to different smaller cities, you know, we’ve had some of these crimes for a long time, but we maybe weren’t able to quite identify them as, you know, being organized and, you know, coming in and stealing stuff in our city, but then taking it and selling it, you know, wherever.
So I think now that we’re able to identify this crime for what it really is. Now, it just, it looks bigger. When you’re looking you start looking at statistics and
So what when I hear or see or organized retail crime I think one of the things that I struggle with and now with the internet is to put a face to it and like what this organization looks or who they who they could be looks and feels like because right when you think of, you know, when you hear a certain, the mafia or gang, right, there’s been documentaries and videos.
And people kind of have a visual of what a group like this, how they operate, who they are, why they operated are organized retail crimes are organized retail, you know, crime syndicates, are they you know, I think people think of when they hear this, it’s like someone just walking in the store and taking a pair of jeans and it’s, you know, somebody in a buddy doing this and it’s more sophisticated than that.
Can you walk us through a little bit about who they are, who they might be how organized and sophisticated?
I guess I can start a little bit on that they’re pretty organized and very sophisticated. You know, and they the thing about it is they have their fingers in a lot of different schemes I guess in how they do this.
So a lot of it you know, yes, you have groups that will come in and actual physically steal product to take and resell but we also face a lot of groups that come in with cloned credit cards and and even going back to when people would write checks, counterfeit checks, they would come in and right and they would come in to our city you know, we’re right off of an interstate our big shopping retail areas right off the interstate.
So we’d get folks that would come in from Atlanta Montgomery Birmingham and come into this the shopping center and you know, go to all these stores with clone credit cards and just, you know, make purchases using clone credit cards or, or counterfeit checks.
So to to pick up on what Shane was saying. It’s it’s, they’re super sophisticated. They’re much different things are that they do in terms of funding their organization from human trafficking, to gun running to smuggling stolen goods, people drugs. It’s not just this one source of it can be super sophisticated like a like you’re alluding to the mafia, or it could be a pawn shop. Right that has multiple people working for them.
And since people out with a shopping list to go to retailers and say on any given week, this is what I need to sell because this is what somebody is stopped by my shop to ask for. Got it.
You need to if you really want to look into it just after this call. You got some spare time Google or See, I mean, there’s, there’s some case studies out there where, you know, health and beauty aids are a big part target because they’re expensive. They’re small and everybody likes and needs.
But there’s case studies done where something is boosted from a Walgreens, let’s just say nine o’clock in the morning, and by noon, it’s in another state, and it’s for sale online or in a flea market or something. It’s amazing the networks that, that I steal it, you’ve got it within 10 minutes of me stealing it. And then within an hour Matt has, and he’s running across state lines. It’s crazy, man. It’s awesome. It’s really common.
It’s so P, you say? But you said a word boosted? Can you define that for everyone? Because I don’t know if everyone listening knows a boosted means.
So when to boost something is to take it without permission. That boosted it. Yeah.
It’s a slang slang word they’re boosted. So the you know, one of the things that recently hit headline news that was that really took the retail world and really the retail investment world for spin is when target announced, they had about $400 million that were was lost to, you know, what they deemed, you know, to theft, which, that’s when the retail world and the retail investment world’s eyes lit up, because this is a staggering number for one retailer. Right?
So I don’t know how it retailer said it broken this out like this, you know, they’ve always had shrink. Right? And they’ve always talked about shrink, but this this was staggering to people? And is are you seeing this at all? Like you follow? Advance Auto and Matt, you’re whenever? Are you seeing this? Is this pervasive across categories? You mentioned health and beauty aids? Is or is it like really, you know, specific to certain products and goods?
I’d say if you think you and I have just put posted in religious posted some stats on show RC went from 90, I want to say 90 billion to 95 billion year over year. So if you think about what profit profits have that’s far greater acceleration than profits are top line sales. So $5 billion, jump in one year is pretty significant for an industry in general.
Got it? Yeah, that that makes a lot of sense. Wow. And that’s why it’s getting so much traffic, so much traction. So now that it’s so hot and heavy from headline news perspective. And you’ve alluded to some of the challenges, the group service are super organized, they’re fast, the fact that you can steal it, and in 10 minutes, someone else has it. And then in an hour, it’s gone to its destination to be sold off, again, is quite uncanny.
So they’re organized, they’re sophisticated, they’re fast, technologically super savvy. What are how’s the retail community now trying to tackle this challenge? What’s going on at large? And then more specifically, what are the three of you doing as it relates to working together? And how do you see, you know, people working together to lower the rate of organized retail crime, how to go forward?
I think the key is what you just said, working together, the fact that you have retailers, you have, you know, businesses like LBT that has specialty in technologies that can be used as a what we call a force multiplier and law enforcement.
By combining with these, these different entities, businesses, groups, police coming together and working together to combat this, you know, we’re stronger as as a group than we are as individuals were before I think, on the police side, you know, we’re trying to tackle everything and we may find this little thing over here that might help but we’re not really working with the retailer.
To get to the root of the problem, and look, you know, maybe nationwide, we’re only focused on what was happening just in our city. And now by these partnerships, we can look bigger picture. And the answer that we’re looking for may have already been answered in some other location.
And it helps us solve our crime, just like we may have answers that they’re looking for. And by working with folks like Pete, you know, there’s advanced autos all over the place. So they may have that piece of information that we need to solve a crime here nope. Like that it came from some other part of the country.
No, you nailed it, Chief. And I think it’s, it’s important to call out to that knowledge is power, right, and the ability to share that. And what LVTs doing with this, this task force being a small example of, you know, the overall bigger picture Loss Prevention Research Council out of Gainesville, University of Florida, is doing tremendous amounts of quality work pulling retailers together, to problem solve and work through different issues.
And they do offender surveys. A wealth of information can be gained from a convicted or a charged organized retail criminal say, What motivated you to do this? How did it how did you choose your target? Why didn’t you go here, and you went here instead of there, it’s, there’s just so much information.
And there’s enough that you may be able to speak better to this, because you may be a little closer to it now, but there’s last checked, probably 15, or regionally aligned, organized retail crime associations throughout different states and jurisdictions so mattering. Are you aware of that? And is that still continuing to be the trend?
Yeah, orcas and that’s a great point is this organized retail crime Association within states are powerful tools where law enforcement and retailers come together to do exactly what you both alluded to is shot on share knowledge. And that’s becoming more and more prevalent, and is a way to combat these unwanted activities and theft. Because you put you put it so very succinctly, Pete is, is knowledge is power.
We are force multipliers, when you break down the silos because everybody’s there fighting the same battle. Whereas historically, everybody’s operated in silos and not wanted to share information for fear of the perception of them either being a soft target, or just admitting, hey, we’re not as we’re not as solid as as we want to appear on the outside.
But breaking down those silos, collaborating together to stop this activity is really is going to be the silver bullet, whereas there hasn’t been a silver bullet in the past, because they’re all fighting the same battles. It’s not like you’re a merchant within an organization competing for share of wallet, you’re trying to stop the root cause of what’s happening, rather than just treat the symptoms.
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Got it? So Pete, when when you got to advanced eight years ago? What types of things were you evaluating? And what were you in? What was the approach then, versus what we’re about to get into as it relates to this task force?
Yeah, so it’s a great, great question. I think I would I would sum up as advance auto is not being the traditional organized retail crime target. Compared to a big box retailer, we’re a small box we’re specialty. But chief talked to it earlier, we were getting exposure to refund fraud and gift card fraud, credit card fraud right off the bat, you know, we we experienced some x the traditional external loss, but the way our stores are set up, fortunately, it’s not as conducive to say
that the most of the goods are in the back of the house.
Right. So the typical are the traditional grab and run that some of our retail partners see doesn’t really befall us as much because of one the way we’re set up and to because of what we sell You know, we’d, like I said, are more victimized in the sophisticated credit card gift card shenanigans that you see taking place.
Got it? All right, we’re gonna get into the task force. And what you guys are doing specifically in Opa, like a guy’s well. Interesting stuff that went on. And thank you for sharing what some of the things about advanced auto versus some other retailers. I’d like for Matt, why don’t you start? And tell us what you guys have done an uncle like, how this partnership formed? And what are some of the results been?
Yeah, I think we touched on kind of the goal of the access Task Force and some of the some of the answers we’ve given already in that there is a force multiplier in collaboration when silos are broken down.
And that’s really where we started with the idea for access Task Force, is what would happen if we went to a untapped market in terms of no collaboration, major thoroughfares for RCW, and partnered with local law enforcement, local governments, our retail partners, to say, how can we make these communities safer, drive down theft, when we have a collaborative partnership that stood up?
And we went to these Opelika and Paducah and brought together a handful of retailers, and did just that went out into the community put, made a large investment from a, from a monetary standpoint to put units together.
Partner with with these retailers and local law enforcement to share information, create an impression of control, to let the know the bad actors know that their activities won’t be tolerated. And that every everybody is working together to harden the target and make the community safer.
So, interesting. To get, to make sure you get, we have a technology company in LiveView that has the cameras, and it’s cloud based. And that’s interesting to have eyes, you have the retail security in group, you know, people like Pete for retailers got the chief of police and law enforcement about what does that mean working together? What are you guys doing? What and what have been the results?
So we’ve actually had a couple of instances already we’re our law enforcement partners have reached out to us for site specific investigative information that we’ve been able to quickly pull video provide that to local law enforcement to to investigate information, if incidences and ultimately, at the end of the day, try to get to a quicker prosecution when activity happens from a criminal standpoint.
Yeah, and I, I want to add something else that we’ve we’ve had here is, we’ve seen from talking with our retailers, a change in the behavior of these bad actors, as they’re coming in, you know, to potentially try to, you know, victimize one of our retailers, they’re already have recognized the fact that we have new technology at play, we, you know, we’re doing something different. And they’re already having to try to adapt, and, you know, how can they defeat it?
And, you know, one of our retailers came to us and said, you know, hey, we’ve noticed that they’re actually either taking the license plates off their cars, or they started using rental cars, which opened up a whole new investigative lead for us to now contact our local rental car companies to be able to see, you know, what kind of information is available to us as law enforcement and how can we, you know, on the front end proactively, you know, you got somebody coming up like a from Atlanta to rent a car for a day, you know, why is that?
So, you know, it’s opened up some new leads for us some new information that we can give to, you know, our patrol officers that patrol these areas, hey, if you see a car, you know, riding without a tag, you know, on private property, that’s not usually something that we’re allowed to make a traffic stop for, unless they’re actually on the roadway.
But now that we know that they’re doing this behavior, taking their tags off their cars and traveling around in these these large retail locations, we see them on that private property. Now we have the reasonable suspicion to windy To make a contact with them and find out, hey, who are you? What are you doing?
And we walk up to the car and the cars, you know, chock full of two or three people and you can’t see the roof because all the boxes and bags and stuff that they have bought, you know, that that’s a clue for us. And, you know, we’re able to do some some different things enforcement side.
I tell you, just just real quick being a part of this task force. It’s amazing. Because advance, we love our police departments, right? We love our communities that we work in, and I love it. If I get a call from a local PD saying, hey, we need some help on this. Do you think he may have video?
Absolutely. I mean, it’s without our local law enforcement and people like the chief, you know, our jobs are just that much harder. So it’s the ability to pull all these different agencies together. We’re chasing the same actors, right? So working together will help us win.
So you guys are all communicating working together. On the on the back end, after things happen, what’s being done on the front end from a prevention standpoint.
So that’s really where the overt pneus perception of control in the parking lot comes into play, right, you’ve got these mobile security elite units, in live view towers, on display in the parking lot at the front of the stores, with speakers that are talking down to you with flashing lights and cameras.
To have to harden the target to psychologically make the bad actors think twice, or even as, as Chief Healy put it, recognize what it is, as a prevention effort, and to either subvert it, go somewhere else that doesn’t have it, or keep the honest customers honest.
I call it the old get the devil to go next door trick, you know, you do these things. And you have this wonderful piece of equipment, like Matt said, sitting in the parking lot out front with the flashing blue lights and the cameras and, you know, it screams you know, police we’re doing something different here.
And they’re like, Ooh, I don’t want to be on camera. Let me go down here someplace else that doesn’t have this. You know. And I think that’s a big factor when it comes to preventing, on the front end preventing these crimes from occurring in the first place.
Yeah, gotta send the devil next store. And another byproduct of this is its increased team member and customer safety as well. I mean, that that lends itself to the customer who needs to run in and grab a battery at eight o’clock at night, and it’s dark outside, but they see this camera in the parking lot. And they know, okay, that store is taking additional measures, not only to you know, keep the bad guys out, but to keep people safe. So it’s, it’s just another byproduct of the technology.
Got it. And so when did this task force and Opalite to get put together, Matt?
So we started this back in September, when we brought a handful of our, our more strategic partners their leadership into into a meeting and approach this this topic with them. And we deployed these units, the first week of November, and we have a second wave going out within the next week or so for some additional partnership to make an impact.
And what else to the previous question, though, we’ve seen certain case studies, upwards of a 69% reduction in Grab and Go theft and some retailers 60 plus percent reduction in parking lot activity. And I’m really excited to see once we get a large data set from our partners with this in partnership with lprc how we move the needle in terms of parking lot activity during this very busy holiday season.
Well, that’s that’s some amazing numbers. And it’s the collaboration in the use of technology. And the technology we’re talking about here is the live view technology cameras that are these large units that are in the parking lots of shopping centers and in front of retail stores that capture everything on video stored in the cloud, and hopefully deter people from wanting to boost stores.
I’ll use a Pete word because they they know it’s the possibility of getting caught is much greater. And that’s led to in this time period. shorter time period, but so far about a 69% reduction in our city. That’s fantastic. Good for you guys.
You know, I think one aspect too, that we haven’t quite touched on yet. And maybe this is a question that you had coming, but the positive impact that the community itself sees from these different retailers there in our community that, you know, we put together working with Matt and his team, a pretty large, you know, media push and social media push about what’s going on, you know, what the technology is how it works, and, you know, which retail partners are using this.
And we have had a large outpouring of support from our community, that, you know, this type of partnership is going on. And, you know, they speak highly of the retailers that they see as partnering together with live you technologies and us, you know, to make their shopping experiences, like Pete said, safer, they feel more comfortable being able to go out and hopefully I guess, you know, maybe Pete can speak more to this, but hopefully that does increase, their sales, especially this time of year.
Chief, I want to ask you a question real quick in terms of your force. And this driving down unwanted activity on some of the biggest retail locations in your city? How does it free up your forces time to go do other more impactful activities with the community? And what is the perception with your, your, your force?
It’s phenomenal, it when I say that it’s a force multiplier for us, I don’t just mean that we have, you know, another tool to use to be able to solve these crimes. The fact that these, these cameras in these, these trailers are in the parking lots, and they have, you know, stickers on the handles, like a police and, and they have the flashing blue lights and stuff. Our community thinks that we’re in all these places all at one time.
So instead of in the past, especially this time of the year, I’ve had to look at, do I take some of my patrol officers that need to be, you know, on the streets, doing some other things and putting them in these parking lots focused solely on these areas that have met presence, I now have a presence where I don’t have to have a person.
And that perception from the public from the bad guys that see those is, in essence, they think that’s a police officer standing right there. So that really has freed up my officers to be able to respond to things quicker and you know, cuts down response times, they’re able to be more proactive in other areas. So it’s a it’s a game changer for us. I like that’s all I can say.
Well, I guys, this has been fantastic. I know we’re running short on time here. And I am looking forward, Matt, to hearing more results as this task force continues, and you potentially roll this out in other communities. This has been a learning lesson for me. Thank you so much.
This is not a topic I’m all that familiar with. And you guys taught me a lot and I’m excited for everyone to hear this. This is really interesting. And you know, I hopefully you guys continue to help make shopping in America safer. So with that. Thank you so much for your time and everyone have a happy holiday.
Thanks. Thanks, gentlemen.
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