When you have worked for any length of time in Retail Loss Prevention you begin to accumulate those incidents that stick out in your memory. Some of those retail theft prevention stories can be really funny. One instance when I was able to stop shoplifting and catch the crook still tickles me when I think back on it. It started when I began watching a young woman, in her upper teens, as she began to look around the ceiling for cameras. Then when satisfied she wasn’t being watched, began tearing clothing and Checkpoint tags off of clothes. I assumed she was tearing off all tags to be sure if there were security tags on the manufacturer tags, she would avoid the Checkpoint Security System antenna from activating.


For those readers who may be trying to learn more about what a Checkpoint Security System is, the terminology may be new so let me digress briefly. A Checkpoint Security System consists of all the components required to stop shoplifting in a store. This includes Electronic Article Surveillance (EAS) antennas, Checkpoint tags, deactivation pads, detachment tools and support service. The antennas and tags work together using radio frequency waves emitted by the tags and received by the antennas to set off an alarm when someone tries to walk out of a building with merchandise that has not been paid for. Deactivation pads de-tune soft Checkpoint tags at the point of sale so the antennas won’t be set off when the customer leaves. The detachment devices are used to remove the Checkpoint hard tags from merchandise at the register and these tags are stored for re-use.


Checkpoint tags are available for all types of merchandise. Soft tags can be peeled from a roll and applied to almost any surface, including manufacturer hang tags (as the shoplifter in my story was looking for). There are even soft tags that are “Food Safe” and can be placed under the soaker pad in a package of meat. Hard tags are available for items such as clothing that need even tougher security protection. These tags are designed to make forced removal almost impossible without damaging the product. Shoplifters aren’t looking for damaged merchandise when they steal so they stop shoplifting and deter theft.


So, our shoplifter was removing manufacturer hang tags and in some cases Checkpoint tags from clothing and filling her purse. After watching for several minutes my boss continued to monitor her on closed circuit television. I went to the sales floor to be closer to her when she decided to leave the store. The young woman started making her way towards one of the exits, but she was taking her time, looking over her shoulder to be sure she wasn’t being followed by security. My boss radioed me and told me which exits she was walking towards so I decided it would be a good time to try something new. Our store had one exit that led to the mall, but the other exits that went to the parking lots had two sets of doors, an exterior and an interior which created a small closed in area. Our shoplifter was heading towards one of the side exits but I got there first and locked the exterior door then hid behind a clothing rack next to the exit. As she walked through the interior door, I came behind and locked it as well. Our shoplifter was trapped in a glass box! It was funny to watch as our thief was pounding on the glass yelling to be let out. An added bonus was when her boyfriend who had been waiting in a car for her, saw she was trapped.  He got out of his car and started pounding on the door yelling and threatening me. I let him know the police were on the way and he could talk to them about the situation. The knight in shining armor chose to leave his damsel in distress trapped in her glass case. So much for chivalry! The police arrived and took custody of our crook.


While this was a funny shoplifting story, one thing that we did not have available at our store back in those days were the Checkpoint hard tags. This was a long time ago and we were just getting accustomed to using the soft tags. Today the story would have been different the items being stolen would have been protected with hard tags while the soft tags would have been used on other items, such as socks. The situation probably would not have happened and I would not have had a good time retelling this tale of the trapped rat.


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