Is Social Media an Accomplice to New Organized Retail Crime?
Recent “spontaneous” smash-and-grab incidents, like the one at Nordstrom in San Francisco, have been anything but spontaneous. The impact of these events are more than simple theft and loss for retailers; they deter customers, disenfranchise employees, and add insurance costs.
The way those committing theft, robbery and crime have adopted technology has become a new form of organized crime. These individuals can roust or “crowdsource” a flash mob using online and social media platforms to incite unrest, perform “smash and grab” pop-up crime events, or even instigate a protest march to cover a criminal activity. Their targets don't appear to interfere with real organized crime, and the people committing these disturbing acts are using sites like eBay and Craigslist as their “fences” to cash out, right out in the open.
Keeping People Safe and Secure While Shopping
One of the collateral problems that comes out of these events is the public perception of safety and security while shopping. Is it safe to go shopping in a store or mall where the potential to get shot or injured seems pretty real? What about employee churn? The current work environment is reporting that people are looking at their job situation differently, and personal safety is a major consideration. What about suppliers? Does the delivery driver want to go to a place where there’s a lot of criminal activity in broad daylight? And the insurance companies aren’t very happy with these pop-up crime events either.
How can a retail operator, proprietor, hospitality owner or service provider feel confident in providing a safe working environment when the ability to get a crowd to show up for a smash-and-grab is so easy? Some companies have their own security department; others outsource their security to a managed security service provider. Either way, the goal is to prevent an incident from happening.
There are a considerable number of access control and surveillance solutions available in the marketplace. Unfortunately, adding more surveillance technology has its limits. If a camera sees a crime taking place, it’s too late to prevent the crime from happening. Cameras are useful to monitor remote areas and facilities off hours. However, if the place of business is open and someone appears with a weapon or a crowd appears to commit a crime, it’s too late for the security person monitoring the cameras to trigger a reaction fast enough to alert people on site to prevent anything from happening. If they were able to anticipate the event, they could be better prepared to prevent a situation. The challenge is how to both prevent an event and discourage it from happening at all. New technologies are needed to help security professionals discover the planning and identify the organizers.
It seems the crime sponsors are two steps ahead of their victims and using different technologies that keep them under the radar with the ability to execute effectively. What if retailers start using the same technology as the villains? How about monitoring the place where the posts are made — and not just one channel, but all of them? What about correlating posts from multiple and disparate sources to discover a potential threat or the intention to commit a crime?
There's technology that connects the dots, correlates and alerts the security professional to a potential event. Platforms exist that discover the posts that point to the intention to commit. This augments the ability of a security team to possibly prevent an incident by adding security measures (e.g., more personnel, changing the dynamics, rescheduling deliveries, and other acts of prevention). Changing the dynamic can mitigate the risk and keep people and property safe.
Getting ahead of the event can also potentially discourage future events. Retailers should be working on harnessing the power of digital analysis to try and turn what's already known into threat deterrence. When a business, facility or person feels threatened, they will use the power of digital technology as an intelligent, automated set of eyes and ears standing guard to help detect the threats that concern owners and operators so they can prevent an incident.
Gary Olson is the CEO and co-founder of GT Digital, a converged threat intelligence provider.
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Gary Olson is the founding visionary & CEO behind GT Digital Ltd. He is recognized as an expert and thought leader in the broadcast technology industry on the convergence of video and data. His multi-decades of accomplishments include developing new and innovative technology solutions. In addition to his work at the UN, he designed the first national commercial broadcast networks for six central European countries and the NBA Referee Instant Replay System that includes a UI that captures multiple live video streams and statistics for real time play analysis. He holds a patent in streaming media and is a published author on the convergence of video and data. He gives presentations on cyber security and Artificial Intelligence in media.