The five essential elements of situational loss prevention

Retail loss prevention might employ various strategies but driving each are five fundamental principles that reduce a shoplifter’s likelihood to steal.

These principles draw on a strategy known as situational crime prevention and are basically designed to remove opportunity and benefit when it comes to retail theft.

So, let’s take a look at what they are, how they work and the tools you can employ to harness their power.

Make it hard

If stealing something requires significant effort from an offender, a theft is far less likely to occur.

After all, why would they take the time and energy to steal from one store when it’s far easier to take products from another.

To reduce the likelihood of shoplifting, retailers should put as many ‘barriers’ in the way of a potential thief as possible, and this comes down to a range of factors including store layout and product protection.

For example, if a product is protected by security tags, a locked cabinet, or spider lock or is located in an area where staff are likely to see a theft occur, it becomes harder for an offender to commit the crime.

Make it risky


In a similar vein, if a theft is risky to commit it’s also more likely to stop an offender in their tracks.

Again, this comes down to a number of factors including store layout, retail security and more.

Say an offender is casing a store for products to steal, but knows there is CCTV surveillance, has to pass a bag check as they exit, and then pass through an electronic article surveillance antenna.

They quickly realise committing a theft in this environment comes with an increased risk of getting caught.

Reduce the benefit

Stealing a product isn’t worthwhile if there’s no benefit at the end, which is where benefit denial strategies along with security tags come into play.


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A great example of benefit denial is ink dye tags. The offender might target a product, attempt to remove the tag only to find the item is ruined by indelible dye. The product becomes useless, has no value and cannot be re-sold on the black market.

Security tag best practice can also offer benefit denial. For example, if the pinhead of the tag is so large that the product has to be cut or ripped for the tag to be removed, the item is rendered useless.

Minimise escalations

This isn’t about loss prevention strategy as much as it about people skills and involves handling any shoplifting situation in a calm and professional manner.

That’s where staff training and procedure comes into play, ensuring all retail staff are educated about the signs of shoplifting and have a procedure to deal with a shoplifting event.

Prevent justifications


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Finally, preventing shoplifting is also about removing the potential for any justification from the offender.

There should be no excuse for them to steal or attempt a theft and then say ‘I didn’t know’ or ‘there were no signs’.

Multiple strategies can be used to prevent justification including obvious (but not obtrusive) signage indicating shoplifters will be prosecuted and that CCTV surveillance is used in store.

Security tags and EAS also reduce the ability to justify a theft, as do locked cabinets and security personnel.

The final word

The five essential elements of situational loss prevention always remain the same, no matter how savvy a shoplifter is or how advanced the tools are that are available to combat them.

For retailers it’s about using the best available methods and multiple theft prevention strategies to ensure each of those situational loss prevention principles is covered in the fight against retail theft.

You can view our range of retail security solutions here.