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Security Guard Responsibility – To catch a thief

Working in the security industry, part of your job will be to prevent the loss of goods by theft. This is a big part of your job working in retail security but it will also be a part of any security job you may hold. You could find yourself working as a security guard on a film set and you are responsible for keeping equipment safe from theft.

Working in retail you will regularly find yourself trying to prevent theft or having to stop people that have committed theft. It may come as a surprise but these stores fall victim to theft multiple times a day and so need alert security staff to prevent the loss of goods.

So how do you deal with a shoplifter?

Before stopping a potential thief you must use A.S.C.O.N.E

Approach – has the person approached the item?

Selection – has the person selected the item?

Concealment – has the person attempted to hide the item?

Observe – have you made an unbroken observation of the concealment

Non payment – has the person walked past the till area? They aren’t paying for the item

Exit – is the person exiting the store?

This is a commonly accepted procedure in the security industry, especially in retail security. You must have seen the person approaching the item, selecting it, concealing it and then walking past the point of payment without paying and then making an exit. It is very important that your observation is not broken. If all these things have happened and you have witnessed it you can usually go ahead and make a stop.

So what are the common techniques thieves use? What should you look out for?

Reduction tickets

Stores often have price tickets to re-price goods on special offer. Sometime shoplifters remove these labels and put them on different items. It is important to not allow loose rolls of price tickets where they can easily be found. It is also important to ensure that labels that are already placed on items don’t get peeled off.


Toilet rolls

These items are often wrapped in cellophane and sometimes shoplifters will pierce holes in these items and place smaller high value items inside and pay for the kitchen towel hoping the cashier doesn’t notice the high value item. Bear in mind that batteries and razors can be stored in these small spaces and are easy to sell on the street.


This is a common method of theft where one shoplifter will distract the security guard on duty and an accomplice will make an attempt to steal goods. Be on guard for this and never chase someone outside of your shop floor, this can well be a distraction technique. Distraction techniques could be two people arguing or someone making a commotion, it could even be someone asking the security guard questions to divert their attention.


Shoplifters may enter a store dressed in bulky or baggy clothing which can be used to conceal certain items. Make an effort to look out for certain people wearing bulky clothing. Shoplifters may also attempt to hide new clothes under their own garments. Be aware of people trying to steal clothes as well.

There are some other more sophisticated methods shoplifters use but these are some commonly used ones. If you complete a course with Security Works you will be taught how to search for these methods of theft to make you prepared for a job in the security industry.

So what is the best way to stop a shoplifter?

A big part of working as a security guard is deterring crime rather than trying to stop it once it has happened. With this in mind what can you do to prevent theft?

Well everywhere you work will have its own policy but if you see someone who you suspect of stealing it is a good idea just to make your presence felt, you can do this by talking to the suspect. However it is important to be very careful with your words rather than asking “can I help you?” which comes with negative connotations as anyone who has ever been asked this by a security guard will tell you, you could tell the person that a particular item is on sale or some other type of small talk. If the individual is not carrying a basket you can offer them one. These subtle gestures make the potential thief aware that you have seen them without you explicitly telling them you are observing them.

If an individual has tried to make off with goods and they will not stop after a verbal request to stop it is up to you as a security guard to call the police and follow your companies procedure for dealing with theft. We at Security Works would always advise against chasing people outside of a store because of all the dangers associated with it.

Stay safe and stay vigilant.

November 30, 2014

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