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OPPORTUNITY MAKES THE THIEF:
ANALYSIS OF THE PHYSICAL CUES THAT INFLUENCE SHOPLIFTER
PERCEPTIONS OF THE RETAIL INTERIOR AND THE DECISION TO STEAL
CAROLINE A. CARDONE
A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF INTERIOR DESIGN
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
Caroline A. Cardone
This research would not have been possible without the support and contributions
of many people. First, I would like to thank my parents, Margaret and David Leeco, for
always championing my decisions, and my brother, Andrew Cardone, for being an
ongoing source of inspiration. I would especially like to thank my husband, Dr. Stowe
Burke, for his understanding and devotion, and for pushing me to do this.
I wish to acknowledge the support of the University of Florida's Department of
Interior Design, and of my graduate advisor, Dr. Mary Jo Hasell, who willingly accepted
the challenge of learning about loss prevention during this process Very special thanks
go to Dr. Read Hayes, who generously shared his time, knowledge of loss prevention,
and scholarly expertise whenever called upon. I am deeply grateful to the staff of the
University of Florida's Loss Prevention Research Team, including Dr. Richard
Schneider, Candy Carmel-Gilfilen and Robert Blackwood. I also owe a debt of gratitude
to Kristin Bell and Kristin Ranger for both their friendship and contributions to this
Lastly, I would like to thank my academic colleagues, Lauren Anderson, Sarah
Cain, Kathryn Levins, and Julianna Mitchell. This master's thesis may mark the
culmination of a scholastic goal, but it will never communicate the scope of our journey.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S ................................................................................................. iii
LIST OF TABLES ................................... .............................. ............ vi
L IST O F F IG U R E S .... ...... ................................................ .. .. ..... .............. vii
ABSTRACT ........ .............. ............. ...... ...................... ix
1 IN TR O D U C TIO N ....................................................... ..... .......... ............ 1
Purpose .... ........................ ..........................................1
Overview of the Shoplifting Problem ........................................... ...............2
The R ole of Interior D esign.......................................................... ............. 3
Scope of Project................................................... 3
D definition s ......................................................................... . 5
A ssum options ................................................................. 6
2 SIGNIFICANCE AND REVIEW OF LITERATURE .................................................8
S ig n ifican ce ............................................................ ................ 8
R etail R actions to Shoplifting......................................... .......... ............... 9
Literature Review ...................................... .. ............... .9
The Design-Security Disconnect............... ......................................................... 10
Review of Security Coverage in Retail Design Literature .............. .................11
Security Coverage in Professional Practice of Retail Design .............................13
Understanding Shoplifter Perceptions.....................................................13
Research on the Crime-Environment Connection.............................................15
"Place-Based" Crim e Prevention ............................................. ............... 16
T h eoretical B ackgrou n d ................................................................... .....................2 1
O opportunity Theories................................................. .............................. 22
R national C choice T heory ............................................................ .....................22
T he T heft T riangle ........... ........................................................ .. .... ...... .... 23
C P TE D ............... ......................25
Situational C rim e Prevention .............. ............................... ............... .... 30
A Matrix of Opportunity-Reducing Techniques ....................................31
Matrix of Physical Cues in the Retail Interior............... ... ............ 33
S u m m ary ...................................... .................................. ................ 4 7
3 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY AND LIMITATIONS ............................................48
S am p le P articip an ts ......................................................................... ....................4 9
Quality of Data .................................... .......................... ............50
Sam ple D em ographics.................................................................... ............... 51
M methodology ......................................................................................................5 1
C content A analysis .......................................... ................... .. ...... 52
Inter-Rater Reliability .................. ......................... ........ .... ............ 54
V a lid ity ....................................................................................................5 6
N arrative Analysis ............... ....... .... ..... .. ....................... .. .. .......... 57
Narrative Analysis in Interior Design Research...............................................59
L im station s ............. ................. .................................................................... 6 0
S u m m a ry ............. .. ............... ................. ..............................................6 3
4 F IN D IN G S ........................................................................................................6 4
F in d in g s ..............................................................................6 4
C o n ten t A n aly sis ........................................................................................... 6 4
Narrative Analysis ............................................ .......... ......70
Categories with No Scores .................................................86
S u m m a ry ......................................................................................................8 7
5 DISCUSSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS ......................................... ...............88
D discussion ..................88................................................
D design R ecom m endations ................................................ ................. 89
Optimizing Natural Surveillance Through Design .............................................92
Optimizing Target Hardening/Accessibility Through Design .........................93
Optimizing CCTV Guardianship Through Design ................... ............... 94
Optimizing Formal Surveillance Through Design ...........................................94
Recommendations for Future Research ..............................................95
Conclusion ........................................... ...... ................................ 96
A: SAMPLE OFFENDER INTERVIEW ........ .......... ..............................98
B: SAMPLE OFFENDER INTERVIEW .......................................................................114
LIST OF REFEREN CES ................................. ............................ .................. 127
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ........................................................................137
LIST OF TABLES
1: Review of Security Coverage in Retail Interior Design Literature ............................12
2: Situational Crime Prevention's Matrix of 25 Opportunity-Reducing Techniques........32
3: Matrix of Physical Cues in the Retail Interior. .............. ............................. 34
4: Sam ple D em graphics ..... ...... ....................... .......... ........ .. .. ........ .... 51
5: Inter-Rater Reliability Test Results ........................ ............. ........ ........... 55
LIST OF FIGURES
1: High Shelf Height. ...................................... ......................... 18
2: Lowered Shelf Height..... ......... .. ... ......... ..............18
3 : B lin d S p o t.. ............................................................. ............... 19
4 : S ig n a g e ..................................................................................................................... 2 0
5: Theoretical Frameworks .......................... ........ ......... ...............21
6: The Theft Triangle ...... ........... .... ......... ...... ........24
7 : T w o R detail Interiors............................................................................................2 5
8: Access Control ......................... ............... ....... ................26
9 : Surveillance.. ................................................... .. .....27
1 0 : T e rrito ria lity ........................................................................................................... 2 7
11: A activity Support ............... .................................................................... ..... 28
12: Target H ardening. ...............................................................35
13: Restricted Access Control ................................................................... ......... .............. 36
14: Unrestricted Access Control. ........................................ ........ .........36
15: Poor CCTV positioning. .... ....... .... .. ...... .... ................ .... .............. 37
16: Poor C C TV Positioning .................................................................... ..................38
17: Optim al CCTV positioning ......................................................... .............. 39
18: Poor natural surveillance.. .............................. .. ......................................... 40
19: G ood natural surveillance. ........................................ .............................................4 1
20: G ood natural surveillance. ........................................ .............................................4 1
21: Place M management ................................ ..... .............. ..... .... 42
22: Form al Surveillance. ......................................... .. .. ........... ......... 43
23 : V visible T targets. .................................................................43
24: Target Concealment. ......................... ....... ................. ..... ..... 44
25: R educe Frustrations. .............................................. .. .. .... ............... 44
26: Poor M maintenance. ................................ .... .. ... .. ......... .........45
27: E excellent M maintenance ......... .............................................................. ............... 45
28: Set R ules............................................... 46
Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Interior Design
OPPORTUNITY MAKES THE THIEF:
ANALYSIS OF THE PHYSICAL CUES THAT INFLUENCE SHOPLIFTER
PERCEPTIONS OF THE RETAIL INTERIOR AND THE DECISION TO STEAL
Caroline A. Cardone
Chair: Mary Jo Hasell
Major Department: Interior Design
Shoplifting continues to be a major source of loss in the retail industry. Despite the
introduction of many new and advanced technologies aimed at minimizing it, the rate and
severity of shoplifting have not ebbed in the past few decades. But shoplifters are human
beings; they are usually reasonable people who base their actions on perceptions of crime
opportunity or apprehension risk. The action of shoplifting exists in a specific context:
the retail store interior. Several studies have linked generalities of the retail interior to
shoplifter perceptions and activity. This study further refines previous research on the
environment-shoplifting connection by identifying the specific design elements that
shoplifters cite as most influential to their perceptions and behavior.
In order to identify these elements, the study applies content and narrative analyses
to 20 in-depth interviews with known shoplifting offenders. These are examined through
the theoretical lens of rational choice theory and situational crime prevention theory. The
study uses a retail-specific adaptation of situational crime prevention's model of
opportunity-reducing techniques to classify and quantify shoplifter comments about
perceptions of the retail interior. Findings from the content and narrative analyses reveal
several patterns amongst the 20 shoplifters. Over 70 percent of their comments about
cues in the retail interior fall into the categories of hardened/accessible targets (efforts to
limit offender access to coveted items), extended guardianship (in the form of closed-
circuit TV), natural surveillance (feeling exposed or like actions are easily monitored),
and formal surveillance (the presence and attentiveness of store security staff).
The study's narrative analysis bolsters these results in its inclusion of offender
interview excerpts contextualizing how shoplifter perceptions and behavior result from
cues in the surrounding environment. The study concludes by outlining some ways retail
designers can incorporate the findings of the study into actual design practice.
The process of designing retail interiors to minimize shoplifting is complex. This
study provides an important first step in its identification of the elements shoplifters cite
as influential to their decision to steal. Further research should aim to test these elements
individually, in controlled environments, to determine which design strategies are most
effective in shaping shoplifter perceptions and behavior.
At times imperceptible, and at others unavoidable, visual messages abound in the
retail environment. Buy, Covet, Notice, Touch, Enjoy, Relax. Implied or obvious, these
messages surround us, conveyed through the smallest details of product packaging to the
overall atmospheric effects of lighting and form. But to a shoplifter, messages in the retail
interior are quite different. A shoplifter enters a store, scans the space, and perceives
Unprotected, Understaffed, Easy Access, Quick Escape. A shoplifter views the retail
store through an entirely different pair of eyes. But what does a shoplifter see? The ability
to assess and understand exactly how shoplifting offenders interpret the retail
environment, and judge the risks and opportunities within it, would be invaluable to
retailers, retail interior designers, criminologists, and researchers alike.
The purpose of this study is to determine if offenders factor characteristics of retail
interiors into their decision to shoplift, and if so, to identify the physical cues offenders
cite as influential to this decision. This information will allow retailers, retail interior
designers, and loss prevention (LP) professionals to focus on the things that influence
shoplifter perceptions and behavior most, thereby optimizing the retail interior's ability to
minimize loss. At the most basic level, the purpose of the built environment is to provide
shelter and protection. "But beyond these basic needs, building design also encompasses
two distinct yet closely related issues: safety and security" (Nadel, 2004, 1). These
issues often extend beyond the integrity of the building structure itself. Within the retail
interior, safety and security also includes protection of the people and products in the
store. Shoplifting jeopardizes both of these, and in order to create a safe shopping
environment, retailers, designers, and security experts must work together to minimize it.
Modem psychology generally acknowledges that individual behavior is influenced
by environment (Gifford, 1996). However, while researchers have examined this
interrelationship from a myriad of angles, few have studied the link between criminal
behavior and interior environments, and even fewer have analyzed shoplifter behavior
within retail interiors. The current study addresses this paucity by asking whether a
shoplifter's perception of the retail interior influences the decision to steal. It addresses
this question via a content and narrative analysis of 20 interviews with known shoplifting
offenders. Rich in descriptive, qualitative material, these interviews provide detailed first-
person accounts of how offenders arrive at the decision to steal. By analyzing the data in
these interviews, this study explores how the retail interior factors into a shoplifter's
decision-making process, identifying the physical cues shoplifters cite as deterrents to, or
opportunities for, shoplifting. Furthermore, the study explains how the offenders'
"rational," salient, decision-making process hinges on the physical design of a store and
presence/position of security measures. Finally, the study suggests ways in which interior
designers may affect this process in a positive way, creating retail spaces that minimize
theft opportunities and enhance the shopping experience.
Overview of the Shoplifting Problem
Shoplifting is a specific form of larceny, defined as "an act of theft from a retailer
committed during the hours the store is open to the public by a person who appears to be
a legitimate customer" (Sennewald and Christman, 1992, 1). In the past century, as the
Industrial Revolution has given way to a culture of consumption based on desire for and
availability of goods, shoplifting has evolved into a complex social problem (Klemke,
1992). Retailers have tried everything to minimize it stringent apprehension policies,
high-tech protection devices, and increased security measures but none of these is a
proven panacea (Welsh and Farrington, 2001). Today's savvy, adaptive criminals can
easily circumvent such reactive "band-aids." To be effective, LP must be a
comprehensive, holistic process a process that begins with store design itself.
The Role of Interior Design
Retail design presents a unique opportunity to help offset the threat shoplifting
poses. Retail design can either help or hinder the security of a store's interior. It can
enhance the effectiveness of LP technologies and facilitate safety, with aisles planned to
coincide with security camera angles, and shelves designed to maximize employee
visibility. Or, alternately, it can create hiding spots for criminals to conduct illicit activity
with poorly-planned exit access, and dark, unprotected covers. LP's effectiveness is
compromised without a retail interior that conveys a sense of risk, sanction, and
vulnerability to would-be offenders. However, research is still unclear as to which
specific design strategies convey this message most effectively. So how do retail
designers know where to focus their efforts? In order to create safe, well-protected
interiors, retail designers must have an awareness of which design elements most
effectively influence shoplifter perceptions, thereby optimizing the retail interior's role in
minimizing theft loss.
Scope of Project
This exploratory study examines 20 shoplifter interviews in an attempt to code and
measure the visual cues in retail environments offenders cite as influential to their
perceptions of shoplifting risk or opportunity (the specific methodology for coding and
measuring is discussed in Chapter 3). The interviews, conducted over several years with a
variety of known shoplifting offenders, present a wide range of information, in narrative
form, about the act of shoplifting. Such detailed, informative interviews are indeed rare,
and the opportunity to study their content makes this study at once unique and complex.
Through a combined strategy of content and narrative analyses, this study focuses in on
shoplifters' perceptions of the physical environment within retail store interiors. It then
examines how specific cues in that environment (like the height of display shelves, for
instance) affect reported perceptions of opportunity versus risk, and subsequently, the
criminal decision-making process.
The scope of this study is limited to shoplifters' reported perceptions of retail
interiors as they affect the decision to shoplift. While it is hoped this study's findings will
prompt further research on how such perceptions could generate a set of "best practice"
guidelines for curtailing shoplifting via store design, specific recommendations can only
be suggested, not proven or prescribed. The intent of this exploratory study is to improve
designers' and retailers' understanding of how offenders perceive retail interiors an
understanding which, in turn, can inform retail design in meaningful ways. The study
does not, however, propose that the "answer" to the shoplifting problem can be reduced
to a predetermined set of design practices. The issue of retail crime and loss is always a
highly individualized one, and responses to it must be tailored to a given time, place, and
situation: "the application of standard formulae or prescriptions without careful
consideration of local circumstances and the full involvement of local people in this
process is much more likely to result in failure or at any rate underachievement"
(Schneider and Kitchen, 2002, 299). Therefore, the design strategies presented at the end
of this study are only broad recommendations starting points for future research, and
from which designers and retailers can conjointly develop a targeted, security-based
This study explores how offender perceptions of certain cues within the retail space
affect their assessment of shoplifting opportunity or risk. For the purpose of this study,
the terms "environment," "retail interior," and "retail environment" are used
interchangeably, and are defined as the physical design of the store's interior including
immediate situational factors such as architectural layout, territorial boundaries, lighting
levels, fixture and shelf placement, product display, and users present. These are all
physical attributes or design features that retailers can control, influence, or affect. (The
definition of "environment" does not include manufacturer-based features, such as
product packaging, or urban planning issues, such as a store's neighborhood location or
proximity to roadways.)
The study's results are based on shoplifter perceptions of such physical conditions.
As such, the term "perception" is defined as "the process of selection, organization, and
interpretation of information about the world conveyed by the senses" (Glassman, 2001,
5). This study is most concerned with how the retail interior, and specific cues within it
(such as cameras, mirrors, or visible employees), help steer this interpretive process.
Therefore, the term "shoplifter perceptions" refers specifically to perceptions of the
physical environment, and how the inferences shoplifters draw from physical cues in
retail interiors influence assessments of ease or difficulty associated with shoplifting. The
study frequently addresses offender perceptions of shoplifting "risk" or "opportunity".
The term "risk" refers to the level of danger offenders perceive as inherent in the
shoplifting act: the risk of detection, apprehension, and sanction. The term "opportunity"
very rarely refers to a direct invitation for shoplifting. Instead, it generally refers to a lack
of risk: a perception that the risk of detection, apprehension, and sanction is low.
Finally, the study focuses on how shoplifters perceive certain "physical cues" in the
retail environment. These "cues" can be either animate or inanimate: the term refers to
anything that helps communicate to offenders how risky (or easy) the act of shoplifting
might be. Cues like visible cameras, products placed in clear view of employees, and
anti-shoplifting signs all impart a certain message to potential shoplifters. Ruesch and
Kees (1956) described the collective meaning that physical cues convey to viewers as
"object language". The intent of this study is to analyze the "object language" of the retail
interior as perceived by shoplifters, in order to determine which cues they cite most as
influential to their decision to steal.
This study assumes offender perceptions will typically differ from those of
legitimate users, and therefore focuses solely on shoplifter perceptions, not the
perceptions of employees or shoppers. In a 1994 study on perceptions of home
vulnerability to burglary, Shaw and Gifford found, contrary to previous beliefs,
offenders' perceptions differed from legitimate users' (possibly due to the offenders'
first-hand experience with burglary). This study assumes the same to be true of
shoplifters; that is, shoplifters' perceptions of retail interiors will differ from legitimate
users' because the shoplifter's focus, intent, and experience level is generally different.
Because the offender interviews employed in this study do not address specific
retail environments (like the type, size, or location of stores), this study also assumes any
comments about retail interiors are general comments about store design, and not a
reference to a specific location or incident (unless otherwise noted by the offender).
Lastly, and most importantly, this study assumes shoplifter perceptions of many LP
strategies are contingent on the physical design and layout of a store's interior. The
design-perception link is in some cases more obvious than others. For instance, the link
between lowered shelf heights (less than 60") and a shoplifter's resulting sense of
vulnerability may be implicit: lower shelf design makes it easier for employees to
monitor a space, which in turn heightens a shoplifter's perception of risk and sanction.
But this link is not always so clear. For instance, a shoplifter may describe an experience
of walking into a store and feeling uncomfortable, as if he/she is "being watched". This
study assumes perceptions like this are predicated on a visual assessment of the physical
design of the space, as it is difficult to watch or be watched without a design that
facilitates surveillance. Therefore this study assumes that, explicitly or not, offenders
factor retail interior design into their assessment risk in the retail interior.
SIGNIFICANCE AND REVIEW OF LITERATURE
Accounting for over 23 million jobs, the retail industry is the second-largest
employer in the United States. Along with employee theft, shoplifting is the largest
source of inventory loss, with the average dollar value per incident exceeding $265. In
2004, the US retail industry suffered an estimated $10 billion in losses due to shoplifting
alone (Hollinger and Langton, 2005).
These numbers, however, are simply the tip of the iceberg. They account for only
direct losses missing merchandise at retail pricing like multiple inventory counts,
inventory replenishment, loss prevention payroll, training, and technologies. The indirect,
peripheral losses retailers incur as a result of shoplifters are also high. Crime and loss
decrease profits by adding expense and decreasing operating revenues. Sales decrease
when theft or efforts to curtail theft (such as storing items behind a register) render
popular items unavailable to legitimate consumers. Sales may also decline if customers
begin to view a store as unsafe (Hayes, 1997). Consumers' fear of retail crime can lead to
a wide range of avoidance behaviors, including reduced shopping activity, limited
nighttime shopping, shortened shopping visits, switching to competitors, or turning to
alternative shopping formats, including the internet or catalogs (Warr, 2000). In addition,
legal claims resulting from wrongly-accused shoplifters, or from anyone harmed during a
crime incident, often result in more financial losses for retailers (Laska, 2000). On a
macro level, shoplifting is an unnecessary burden on courts, jails, and police forces. It
strains social services departments, indirectly increases cost of living, incurs tax losses,
and imposes a heavy toll on society as a whole (Farrell and Ferrara, 1985).
Retail Reactions to Shoplifting
To mitigate the effects of shoplifting, retailers employ various LP strategies
(Clarke, 1997; Hayes, 1991; Hayes 1997). Some retailers focus LP on procedures,
training and customer services, while others rely on technologies like electronic article
surveillance (EAS) tag systems and cameras (Hollinger & Langton, 2005). EAS gates
work with corresponding tags attached to items. Unless deactivated at the point of
purchase, these tags activate an alarm when passed through the gates. In theory, store
employees will react to these alarms and either reconcile a faulty tag with a receipt, or
apprehend a shoplifter. However, the reality is that few alarm activations actually elicit a
proactive response from staff (Hayes and Blackwood, 2006b). Other retailers attack theft
with store detectives who patrol the store on foot or with the assistance of CCTV (closed-
circuit television) cameras (Hayes, 1993; Jones, 1998). However, despite many years of
technological advances in security systems, little research exists to prove that these
measures have been effective in reducing the impact of shoplifting, and thus, the problem
persists today (Welsh & Farrington, 2001).
Shoplifting has been studied through a variety of lenses, including its connection to
social factors (Klemke, 1992), greed and temptation (Carroll and Weaver, 1986), gender
(Abelson, 1992; O'Brien, 1983; Pousner, 1988), psychological problems (Katz, 1988),
life history and upbringing (Snodgrass, 1982), drug use (Jarvis and Parker, 1989), mental
pathologies like kleptomania (Cupchik, 1997), and the market-based "culture of
consumption" that seems to pervade every facet of Western life (Cohen, 2003).
Despite the range of studies focused on the phenomenon of shoplifting, until
recently, very little research has been directed toward understanding its link to retail
interior design. However, a growing body of literature exploring the relationship between
criminal behavior and the environment positions this relationship as a promising one in
terms of how retail interior design affects shoplifter behavior. In a 2004 review of
literature, Moussatche, Hayes, Schneider, McLeod, Abbott, and Kohen found that current
trends in retail design hold much promise: "Innovative store design can increase
convenience and excitement for the customer while simultaneously allowing for more
staff efficiency and better product protection .. effective retail design can both enhance
sales and safeguard against shrinkage" (Moussatche et al, 2004, 5). This literature review
examines how security issues like shoplifting are addressed in current retail design
resources and professional practice. It then reviews several studies on the
crime/environment connection in architecture, interior design, and other disciplines.
Finally, it presents a theoretical framework from which the current study is derived.
The Design-Security Disconnect
Although recommendations for "designing out crime" are often outlined in crime-
based literature (Felson, 1996; Ekblom, 1997; Farrington, Bowen, Buckle, Biurns-Howel,
Burrows & Speed, 1993; French et al 1984; Lin et al, 1994; Hollinger, 2004) and
occupational health literature (Casteel, 2004; Casteel, 2000; Hendricks, 1999; Mair
2003), there is a paucity of security-based information in the existing body of retail
design literature, rendering it difficult for designers or architects to implement loss
prevention into design programs. This may be due to a perceived conflict of interest
between merchandising and loss prevention: "the paradox is intense. It is a miracle if
store operations can resolve the opposing purposes of attracting buyers and thwarting the
illegal removal of merchandise" (Israel, 1994, 97). Retail LP departments are often at
odds with marketing, merchandising, and design departments, who feel that security
strategies impede their ability to stock, sell, and display items in an attractive, alluring
manner. The retail industry often views merchandising and loss prevention as two very
different (and sometimes contradictory) endeavors. Therefore, while retail designers can
choose from a wealth of resources on how to create stores that support merchandising,
very little literature exists to guide designers on how to do so with security in mind.
Review of Security Coverage in Retail Design Literature
This study reviewed 19 books on retail design and found that only seven contained
information addressing crime and loss in store design. Even fewer mentioned shoplifting
specifically (see Table 1). Most publications on retail design focus on sales-based goals
of merchandising and marketing and their connection to superficial aesthetic conceits like
branding, identity, image, and overall appearance (Cliff, 1999; Currinbhoy, 1999; Dean,
2003; Pegler, 2002; Reinwoldt, 2000). Of the seven books that did mention incorporating
security into retail design programs, four had been published over 10 years ago,
suggesting that what little information on security-focused design is available to
designers is fairly outdated. Most retail design literature focuses on how stores effect
consumer behavior (Donovan, Rossiter, Marcoolyn, & Nesdale, 1994; Gilboa & Rafaeli,
2003; Ogle, Hyllegard & Dunbar, 2004; Sherman, Mathur & Smith, 1997; Turley &
Chebat, 2002), perceptions of branding (Ailawadi & Keller, 2004), or perceptions of
merchandise value (Baker, Parasuraman, Grewal & Voss, year). Such research foci are
not surprising considering the retail industry's understandable preoccupation with the
bottom line. However, shoplifting also has an enormous impact on the bottom line, and
should thus be more of a priority than it currently is in design literature.
Table 1: Review of Security Coverage in Retail Interior Design Literature
Year Title Author Shoplifting? D Comments
Security? Design ?
Designing to Sell
Design for Shopping Centres
Trade Secrets of Great Design
Designing Entrances for Retail &
The Inspired Retail Space
The Retail Store: Design &
The Power of Visual Presentation: Retail
Store Planning/Design : History,
Retail Store Planning & Design
Shops A Manual of Planning and
Designing the World's Best
Influencing Sales Through Store
New Shops and Boutiques
Better Models for Chain
Retail Desire: Design Display and
Vis ual Merchandisinn
Explains some CPTED concepts and corresponding
Security section focuses mainly on safety, hazards,
fire code, & emergencies.
About retail atmosphere, trendiness, aesthetics.
Focus is on first impressions & overall appearance.
About branding & image.
Discusses surveillance (formal & natural), blind
spots, CCTV, EAS, & employee awareness.
Outdated but thorough. Has specific
recommendations for designing a secure store.
Pessimistic about reconciling merchandising &
security goals. Few design recommendations.
Covers all phases of retail planning, budgeting,
scheduling, and construction.
Outdated but detailed: covers many specific ways
to implement security into design.
Concentrates on merchandising, mood, marketing.
About branding & image.
Mostly about creating image & identity via design.
Focuses on retail experience & trends, not
Suggests ways drugstores can better fit in with
communities and historic areas.
. .. . ... .. ..
Security Coverage in Professional Practice of Retail Design
Unfortunately, the current outlook for integration of security into the professional
practice of interior design is just as bleak. In a 2001 study presented to the Fourth
European Academy of Design Conference, British design professor Mike Press shared
the results of his survey on crime reduction awareness amongst designers. Press
conducted semi-structured qualitative interviews with 43 "key stakeholders" in the design
industry, including educators and practitioners. In his study, Press noted that retail design
is usually more focused on increasing sales than decreasing crime, and that despite
Design Week magazine's annual supplement on retail design, the issue of crime
reduction has never been addressed in it. He concluded that although "designers can play
a vital role in ensuring that crime is embedded explicitly in design ... the general picture
that emerges from the professional design practice is one of little understanding of the
issues, a lack of specific knowledge that can be applied in design, and an overall failure
to design against crime" (Press, 2001, 12). Clearly, then, the marriage of loss prevention
and interior design is long overdue.
Understanding Shoplifter Perceptions
Research on environment and behavior indicates people prefer environments that
assist them in achieving certain goals. Stephen and Rachel Kaplan's theory of "cognitive
affordances" tells us environmental preferences are based on how the "functional
qualities of environments help us meet important goals" (Gifford, 1996, 172). For a
shoplifter, that goal is to steal, and his/her perception of the retail interior is an
assessment of the functional qualities it presents that will help or hinder the attainment of
that goal. In their book Environmental Criminology, Brantingham and Brantingham
(1981) explain that the location and characteristics of a certain place will influence a
criminal's perception of that place, thus influencing the likelihood of a crime occurring
Offender perceptions can sometimes differ from reality. Consistent with the
common phrase "perception is reality," a store that seems well-secured or monitored to a
shoplifter may suffer less crime than one that does not, despite any actual difference in
security measures. Consider CCTV monitors, for example. Some retailers install inactive
dummy cameras to ward off potential crime. Despite the fact that the cameras aren't
actually recording anything, some offenders see them and are discouraged from
committing a crime because they fear they are being monitored. In this case, the dummy
cameras are not actual risks; they are perceived risks. But because the offender knows no
difference, the effect is the same. It therefore follows that, as Newman points out, crime
prevention "should be aimed at perception of a situation in addition to, or even instead of,
the situation itself' (1997, p. 10). In the retail setting, changing the perception of the
situation involves identifying and later adjusting those physical cues that contribute to
a shoplifter's perceptions.
This study explores the physical cues shoplifters perceive in the retail interior.
These correspond to situational crime prevention's more broad classification of
behavioral cues: "eliciting stimuli" and discriminativee stimuli" (Wortley, 1997, 67).
Eliciting stimuli consist of environmental conditions that provoke predictable behavioral
responses: the sight of blood, for example, may make a person feel nauseous the blood
being the eliciting stimulus, and nausea the predictable response. Conversely,
discriminative stimuli are environmental conditions that "signal the likely consequence of
a particular action," thereby prompting appropriate behavior (Wortley, 1997, 67). Some
examples of discriminative stimuli include signs on exit doors that indicate an alarm will
sound if the door is opened; a yellow traffic light signaling that a driver should slow
down and stop; or more symbolic signals like a hedge around a property line indicating a
territorial boundary (Wortley, 1997, 67). Applying Wortley's concept to the retail
interior, some physical cues may function as eliciting stimuli for shoplifters, activating
certain behaviors. For example, if a shoplifter sees valuable merchandise left unguarded
and unprotected in a store (an accessible target), that cue may be perceived as an
invitation to shoplift because of a lower amount of perceived risk. At the same time, other
physical cues are like discriminative stimuli in that they signal sanction, repercussion,
and risk to the offender: an EAS gate at the entrance, for example, signals a likely
consequence that an alarm will sound when stolen merchandise leaves the store. The
challenge for retailers and retail designers, then, is to prompt appropriate behavior
(purchasing) and prohibit inappropriate behavior (theft) by altering perceptions of the
retail interior via the identification and manipulation of cues within it.
Research on the Crime-Environment Connection
In a lecture delivered to Rutgers University School of Criminal Justice in the late
1990s, noted criminologist Ronald V. Clarke began by revisiting a basic tenet of
psychology: "Behavior is a product of the interaction between person and setting"
(Clarke, no year). His point was simple: for a crime to occur, a motivated criminal
(person) must encounter the opportunity for crime (setting). Clarke went on to explain
this equation allows us to reduce crime prevention into two basic categories: "1. Action
to prevent the development of criminal dispositions and 2. Action to reduce criminal
opportunities" (Clarke, no year, 1).
These two categories represent two broad types of theory within the field of
criminology: the first attempts to understand crimes such as shoplifting in terms of
behavioral tendencies, the principle causes of which lie in an individual's genetic
makeup, psychological conditions, upbringing, and socio-economic standing. The
second category is more relevant to the current study, as it attempts to understand crime
as a result of situational factors that come together to form a crime opportunity (Clarke,
1997). The idea that certain elements of the physical environment (such as dark alleys or
parking lots) can be "criminogenic," or crime-causing, is not new. Urban planners have
been applying this mindset to their discipline for several decades (Jeffrey, 1977;
Newman, 1973, 1976, 1981). Early research examining crime levels and public housing
(Wood, 1961, 1967), street life (Jacobs, 1961), and personal space (Hall, 1959) came to
influence an entire generation of urban planners and criminologists who recognized the
inextricable link between environment and criminality how certain physical or
environmental conditions can either inhibit or facilitate crime activity.
"Place-Based" Crime Prevention
More recent research on the idea of "place-based" crime prevention has brought the
concept indoors, focusing on how it applies to interior environments, including retail
interiors (Eck, 2002). Place-based crime prevention seeks to understand first why certain
places attract crime or criminals while others do not, and suggests that "some places are
safer than others, in part, because of how they are built and how people use them" (Mair,
2003, 211). Mair provides the following concise summary of environmental approaches
to crime prevention:
* Physical design and immediate situational factors of a place may encourage or
* Physical design and immediate situational factors can create a sense of territoriality
in legitimate users of a space and induce them to act on that attachment in order to
protect against violence and other illegitimate use
* Modifications can be made to an environment to reduce opportunities for [crime]
by making the commission of an [offense] appear more risky, more difficult, less
rewarding, and less excusable to the potential offender (Mair, 2003, 217).
In the past 20 years, research on place-based crime has begun to link crime to
certain facets of retail interiors, including how they affect employee and consumer
behavior (Bitner, 1992), criminal behavior (Farrell and Ferrara, 1985) and shoplifter
perceptions (Carroll & Weaver, 1986; Hayes, 1998; Butler, 1994; Tonglet, 2001). Other
studies have explored how certain environments and store designs seem to "invite"
criminal behavior (Munday, 1986; Francis, 1980), but lack substantive investigation of
the specific elements that contribute to this sense of invitation.
Butler (1994) began to address this lack of specificity in his survey of 15
shoplifters' views on security. Thirteen out of 15 respondents noticed security measures
or other possible risks within the store environment of the research setting. In all, the
respondents identified 29 possible risks which they felt could lead to their apprehension,
the most frequently mentioned being staff, customers, store detectives, CCTV, and
alarms. Similarly, respondents most frequently mentioned being followed by security and
the presence of staff as measures that would actually deter them from shoplifting. Thus,
Butler concluded, "people exercise a very real deterrence" to shoplifters (Butler, 1994,
62). It is interesting to note respondents in Butler's study did not feel "items placed on a
high shelf' were a deterrent. Indeed, one can assume such high shelves might even negate
the usefulness of actual deterrents (people) by blocking lines of sight.
Figure 1: High Shelf Height. In Butler's study, shoplifters did not cite "items on a high
shelf' as a deterrent to shoplifting. As seen in Figure 1, placement of
CRAVED products on high shelves may make access a stretch, but not
impossible. In fact, high shelves may actually facilitate theft acts, since they
block lines of sight.
Figure 2: Lowered Shelf Height. This image illustrates how items placed on lower (>60")
displays help make users more visible, and thus rendering shoplifting more
Tonglet's (2001) study of shoplifters' perceptions of security found that, for recent
shoplifters, the retail interior played a significant role in the decision to steal,
underscoring her hypothesis that crime is often impulsive, not premeditated. In fact, 74
percent of recent shoplifters in Tonglet's study said they would shoplift again even if they
hadn't planned on it, "suggesting that if the retail environment provides a shoplifting
opportunity, then potential shoplifters may take advantage of it, even though they may
not have planned to shoplift before entering the shop" (Tonglet, 2001, 347). Tonglet's
research is important in that it presents the retail interior as a factor in the shoplifter's
decision-making process. However, Tonglet, like many others who have explored
"place-based" crime prevention, was focused more on the idea of crime prevention than
on place, making it difficult for designers to understand or her research or apply it in
retail interior design practice.
Mirrors are good security
features, but this one does not
reflect CRAVED items in it.
Figure 3: Blind Spot. Shoplifters often take items from high-visibility areas to a "dead
zone" (a.k.a "blind spot") like this in order to hide things in bags, containers,
or on their person. Therefore, even if there are no CRAVED items in them,
designers must strive to eliminate "blind spots" from the retail interior.
Tonglet's findings are emphasized by Hayes' (1998) comprehensive survey of over
2,000 shoplifters, 64 percent of whom admitted they decided to steal after entering a
store. Furthermore, Hayes' study found that 62 percent of stolen items were taken from
high-visibility zones. This suggests that shoplifters were removing items from high
visibility zones and taking them to "dead" zones, or "blind spots," (see figure 3) to hide
the items before exiting the store (Hayes 1998). Hayes recommends that "a deterrence
model could focus on altering offenders' decisions by implementing and 'marketing'
cues aimed specifically at reducing theft motives and opportunities while increasing the
perception of risk" (Hayes, 1998, 8). For example, many stores use CCTV to monitor
activity. However, few stores "market" this fact to shoplifters. The simple addition of a
sign at a store's entry reading "CCTV monitoring in use shoplifters will be prosecuted
to the fullest extent of the law" could underscore to offenders that the store means
business (see figure 4).
Figure 4: Signage. According to Hayes' study, "marketing" deterrent cues like this CCTV
dome can increase their effectiveness. Designers can enhance CCTV's power
with the simple addition of signage.
Perhaps the most relevant research in the area of how retail interiors affect
shoplifter perceptions is Carroll and Weaver's 1986 process-tracing study. In it, the
researchers asked 17 experienced shoplifters to walk through retail environments while
"thinking aloud" about deterrents or facilitators that might influence the theft act. Similar
to the current study, the researchers coded the resulting accounts into categories in order
to examine how rationality explains shoplifters' decisions to steal. Carroll and Weaver
found that the major deterrents to shoplifting were the presence of security devices, item
inaccessibility, the possibility of being observed, and the presence of employees.
Facilitators included the lack of the aforementioned deterrents, as well as "a store layout
conducive to shoplifting (e.g., high counters that impede observation)" (Carroll &
Weaver, 1986, 29). In this study, Carroll and Weaver began to address how some specific
interior design conditions shape offender perceptions and resulting behavior. However,
overall, their study was general they examined a wide range of factors that contribute to
shoplifter perceptions of stores. The current study further refines the concept of how
rationality affects the criminal perception of a retail environment by focusing solely on
Collectively, these studies are significant in that they all attempt to classify the
perceptions that come together to motivate a potential offender into shoplifting action.
Several of the studies address the perception of the retail interior, and certain elements
within it, as influential on a shoplifter's assessment of risk, and subsequent decision to
steal. However, none of these studies has been precise enough to pinpoint the specific
physical cues shoplifters cite as influential to their decision-making process.
In order to operationalize shoplifter perceptions of the retail environment, this
study draws on three major crime theories: rational choice theory, the theft triangle, and
CPTED/situational crime prevention. The latter theories serve to operationalize rational
choice theory. While each of these theories addresses a similar theme (environmental
criminology), this study's theoretical background frames them in a consecutive order,
from general to specific:
Rational Choice Theft Triangle: CPTED/Situational
Theory: provides Asserts that three Crime Prevention:
understanding of elements are necessary Presents specific
shoplifting act as\ for shoplifting to design-based actions
result of reasonable ) occur: desirable retailers can apply in
assessment of risk target, motivated order to minimize
vs. opportunity offender, lack of crimes such as
Figure 5: Theoretical Frameworks
The relevance of each of these theories to the current study is discussed below.
In order to understand how the retail environment (and specific cues within it)
affects criminal perception, it is important to review some basic theories of
environmental criminology. Several well-known criminology "opportunity" theories
correlate to and legitimize the present study: rational choice theory, the theft triangle, the
U.K.-born situational crime prevention, and its American cousin, crime prevention
through environmental design (CPTED). The three latter theories all serve to
operationalize rational choice theory, bringing it to life in a way that allows retail
designers to apply theory to practice. As explained below, these theories are by no means
mutually exclusive; they overlap in some areas, and present complimentary views in
others. Together, they provide a theoretical context for the present study, locating it
within well-established environmental criminology theory and providing guidelines for
Rational Choice Theory
Rational choice theory examines crime from the viewpoint of the offender,
asserting that most criminals (like shoplifters) are normal, reasonable people who weigh
the relative risks and rewards associated with a crime before deciding to commit it
(Cornish and Clarke, 1986; Felson and Clarke, 1993). In the case of shoplifting, a
potential offender might weigh how much he/she needs, desires, or will profit from an
item against the chance of being caught and the resulting punishment. To understand how
rationality affects decision-making, consider the following shoplifter's first-person
account of the risks and rewards involved in the shoplifting act:
It's very, you know, you can get in trouble, you know you can get caught, you know
you can get in a lot of trouble, but you know ifyou can walk in and take a bag off
the shelf like a duffle bag or voiiiiiiig like that, your duffel bag, and fill that
thing up i, ith DVDs, CDs, and Gillette razors and stuff like that that you can sell,
and you can pick that thing up and get oi ni ith it, you start thinking the risk is
I 1,i th it. You've gotten away in ith it once or twice, the risk is 1,ni ith it. Maybe you
can run and take off... when you ihinuk i el if I get out li ith this bag I got 40
DVDs, 25 CDs, 20 Gillette razors and e'ei il thii,. I've got a $500 bag right here.
Maybe $600. And if thatpaysfor this bill, that bill, this bill, that bill. Then you can
just relax, you know, for a couple of weeks. "Joey", a known shoplifting
The present study is particularly concerned with the role the interior environment
has in this assessment process: for instance, would a rational shoplifter be more likely to
steal in a hidden store aisle than in front of a cashier? Which physical cues lead a
shoplifter to determine where, when, or if to steal? This study will address such
The Theft Triangle
The theft triangle model (Hayes, 1993) takes crime theory to a more micro level
than rational choice theory, focusing on the assimilation and identification of the multiple
variables that contribute to a criminal act. The theft triangle assumes a potential brings
"background factors" (such as genetic coding, personality traits, socialization, learning
experiences, and perceived need) to a specific situation. These then combine with three
1. the perception of need or want for an item and motive for theft;
2. the perception that the item is accessible and obtainable;
3. a low perception of low personal risk associated with committing the offense.
This study is most concerned with the second two elements (perception of access and
perception of risk). They are listed in red in Figure 6.
3, Low Perception of Risk
Figure 6: The Theft Triangle
According to the theft triangle, all three components generally must be in place for
a crime to occur. It is this focus on the personal and situational perceptions of offenders
(Hayes, 1997) that marks the theft triangle's appropriateness for the current study, as the
design of a retail interior is a major determinant of a shoplifter's mise en scene. In order
to truly impact loss, it is not enough to prevent crime; retailers must prevent attempts at
crime. An effective way to do this is to influence an offender's perception of the crime
situation to increase a sense of risk, and decrease a sense of accessibility while
attempting to reduce criminal motivation. The theft triangle allows this study to
"operationalize the study of an offender's situational decision-making" (Hayes, 1998). Its
methodology employs the second and third factors of the theft triangle (perceptions of
accessibility and risk) as the two main classifications for analysis of physical cues in
retail interiors. In order to understand how these two factors converge to influence a
shoplifter's behavior, consider the following offender's comment:
First thing\ first you want to know if they got what you want. The second factor is
the risk involvement. The risk involvement will be security times cameras times
employees times space times customers. Those are the five factors you're going to
have. Why? Because all of them c ,/iyi i i h each other to catch you ..
"Nolan", a known shoplifting offender
In this excerpt the offender clearly spells out how two elements of the theft triangle -
opportunity ("you want to know if they got what you want") and risk ("the risk
involvement") interact to determine the perceived feasibility of the shoplifting act. This
offender also makes clear how risk factors can be reduced to specific LP measures:
security, cameras, employees, customers. These types of cues and their effect on offender
perceptions are the foci of the current study. Figure 7 below provides examples of
different types of retail interiors and how their physical design clearly impacts the store's
desirability as a shoplifting target:
Figure 7: Two Retail Interiors. Note the differences in physical layout between these two
images. In image A, the store interior is designed in such a way as to hinder
shoplifting opportunity: shelves are less than 60" high (allowing visibility
across the entire space) lighting is clear, and a long unobstructed line of sight
allows visitors to be seen from many vantage points. In image B, high
shelving, dim lighting, and a lack of CCTV cameras make this a potential area
for a shoplifter to conduct illicit activity.
CPTED is actually a group of related place-based crime prevention theories that
have become increasingly popular through the last few decades. At its core, the concept
of CPTED is based on the premise that "the proper design and effective use of the built
environment can lead to a reduction in the fear of crime and the incidence of crime"
(Crowe, 2000, 1). Architect and urban planner Oscar Newman carried out some of the
first CPTED research in the 1970's in his study of how design could inhibit crime in
public housing developments (Newman, 1972). CPTED has evolved over the years, but
its foundation is still based on how the interrelationship between people and environment
can affect crime. Crowe (2000) describes CPTED's most recent iteration as having
evolved to include three fundamental principles:
* Access Control any measure that denies access to a crime target, whether through
spatial definition, locks, glass cases, or guards, access control helps inhibit crime
opportunity (see figure 8).
Figure 8: Access Control. This electronics retailer uses cables to secure products to an
interactive display. This type of access control prohibits theft while allowing
customers to examine and try products. Photo courtesy of author.
* Surveillance this concept involves elements that enable occupants and casual
observers to observe and monitor a space, thus increasing the sense of risk for
offenders. Surveillance can be facilitated by employees, security guards, or CCTV,
but cannot be effective without design and spatial arrangements that maximize lines
of sight (see figure 9).
Figure 9: Surveillance. This type of aisle configuration (sometimes called "feathering")
maximizes surveillance opportunities, increasing a sense of risk for potential
offenders. Photo courtesy of author.
* Territoriality a more recent addition to CPTED, this concept refers to the
formation, through physical design, of a "sphere of influence" in which legitimate
users begin to feel a sense of responsibility or proprietorship, which in turn leads to
their active protection of the space. In the retail setting, territoriality is often
defined through real and symbolic space markers: a "territory" may be very clear,
such as a jewelry counter, or more ambiguously defined through flooring pattern,
color, light, ceiling condition, or displays. In either case, employees are more apt to
monitor their "turf" if spatial features make its boundaries obvious (see figure 10).
Figure 10: Territoriality. A simple yet clear change in flooring material in this grocery
self-checkout area identifies it as a distinct territory, making it easier for the
employee on duty to monitor activity in the space. Photo courtesy of author.
* Activity Support refers to any activity that increases legitimate consumers and
encourages increased business, since these can have an indirect effect on crime.
Facilitation of legitimate activity is one of the easiest areas for design to affect in
retail interiors: adding a cafe of small coffee/tea area to a store will cause legitimate
consumers to spend more time in the space, which indirectly contributes to
informal surveillance (see figure 11).
Figure: 11: Activity Support. This clothing retailer's addition of a small cafe near the
store entrance increases legitimate activity and users, which may in turn affect
perceptions of risk and/or opportunity. Photo courtesy of author.
Although some studies have questioned CPTED's effectiveness in specific
situations (Taylor, 2002; Amandus, Hunter, James & Hendricks, 1995), researchers
generally concur that "design plays a role, albeit often difficult to define, in making crime
more or less likely to occur in the built environment" (Schneider, 2005, 273). CPTED is
considered a "mainstream" crime prevention technique, and a number of research studies
have documented how its application can reduce crime, especially in convenience store
and urban planning settings (Crow and Bull, 1975; Scott et al, 1985; White, 1986; Jeffery
et al, 1987; Hunter, 1988; Leistner, 1999; Casteel, 2000). The urban planning discipline
in particular has produced some promising research in terms of how CPTED principles
can affect crime, including Minnery and Lim's (2005) research on how CPTED measures
reduced victimization in residential neighborhoods. Similarly, Brown and Bentley's 1993
interviews with home burglars found that territorial concerns, neighbor reactivity, and
difficulty of entry all CPTED-based features affected burglars' perceptions of a
home's vulnerability. In addition, Shaw and Gifford (1994) found that "surveillability"
and "symbolic barriers" two defensible space cues made homes seem less vulnerable
to burglars. LaVigne (1997) examined how implementing CPTED techniques like
maintenance, lighting, natural and employee surveillance affected crime rates in the
Washington DC Metro subway system. She found they reduced crime rates, and
concluded that the Metro is "unusually safe" considering the relatively dangerous context
aboveground, and that this safety is undoubtedly correlated to the design and
maintenance of the Metro's physical environment.
But despite its conceptual basis in design, CPTED research on interior
environments is relatively scant. Therefore, the few examples we do have of how
CPTED-derived environmental cues shape offender perceptions of interior spaces are of
particular relevance to the current study. In one such example, Swanson (1986)
interviewed 65 convenience store robbers in order to identify the environmental cues they
cited as either desirable or undesirable in terms of committing a crime. Some of the
desirable cues in a store robbers cited are below (their corresponding CPTED categories
* Easy access to and from the store (access control)
* Only one clerk and no customers (surveillance)
* Accessibility of safe (access control)
* Poor visibility (surveillance)
* Obstructed windows (surveillance)
Some of the "undesirable" cues Swanson identified were:
* Customers at the store (surveillance)
* Surveillance cameras (surveillance)
* A raised and deep cashier's counter (access control)
Although performed in a convenience store setting, Swanson's study provides
evidence of how offender perceptions are shaped by CPTED-based physical cues.
Because this study focuses on retail interiors, not convenience stores, the cues shoplifters
mention will likely differ in specifics. However, the same concepts of access control,
surveillance, and territoriality will likely arise when shoplifters discuss their perceptions
of retail interiors.
In a more recent study, Casteel (2004) examined the effectiveness of similar
CPTED techniques in liquor stores and found that those employing CPTED-based crime
"countermeasures" such as good visibility, bright lighting, and controlled exit access saw
a 33 to 87 percent decrease in crime. The implication of both of these studies is, of
course, that it is possible to manipulate physical cues in retail environments in order to
reduce criminal opportunities. This study will help identify which cues offenders perceive
as most influential to shoplifting.
Situational Crime Prevention
Similar to CPTED, situational crime prevention presents way to use the larger
concepts of rational choice theory in real-world applications. It is predicated on the
notion that offenders assess the risks and rewards of a potential crime before deciding to
commit it. However, situational crime prevention further refines this concept, locating the
precise characteristics of a particular situation as pivotal in the offender's rationalization
process. Situational crime prevention suggests that effective crime prevention reduces
opportunities for crime by reducing rewards and increasing efforts and risks for
perpetrators. It contends that, in so doing, an environment can be changed in a way that
"affects assessments made by potential offenders about the costs and benefits associated
with committing particular crimes" (Clarke, 1997, 5).
A Matrix of Opportunity-Reducing Techniques
Situational crime prevention is a particularly helpful framework due to its
fundamentally "tactical" approach: it's an evolving, evidence-based matrix of crime
prevention techniques that (currently) consists of 251 tangible, specific strategies aimed at
reducing crime (see Table 2) (Clarke, 1997; Smith and Cornish, 2004). Like the theft
triangle model, this micro scale renders the matrix particularly useful for understanding
the current study. The 25 strategies provide a useful starting point for categorizing
shoplifter comments about risks and opportunities within interior environments.
Situational crime prevention's matrix of 25 Opportunity-Reducing Techniques
evolved out of 15 years' collective experience in reducing crime via control of situational
elements. The techniques are categorized into five overarching groups: increasing
perceived effort, increasing perceived risks, reducing anticipated awards, reducing
provocations, and removing excuses (Clark and Cornish, 2003). This study is most
concerned with the first two groups: increasing effort and risk. The techniques in these
two categories are related to rational choice theory, in that they aim to affect crime
incidents by influencing offender perceptions of risk or opportunity. The strategies in
third group, reducing rewards, are geared toward making a crime target less desirable by
minimizing the potential payoff it has. The last two groups, reducing provocation and
excuses, contain strategies that minimize or remove catalysts for crime: situations or
elements that "provoke" crime or provide excuses for it. The original matrix of all 25
Opportunity-Reducing Techniques is included in Table 2.
1 The original matrix consisted of 16 opportunity-reducing techniques, but has since evolved to 25.
Table 2: Situational Crime Prevention's Matrix of 25 Opportunity-Reducing Techniques
1. Hardened Targets:
REDUCED REWARD REDUCED PROVOCATION
6. Extend Guardianship:
11. Concealed Targets:
16. Reduced Frustrations:
21. Set Rules:
Steering column locks Routine precautions like going out Off-street parking Efficiant queues & polite service Rental agreements
Anti-robbery screens in a group at night Gender-neutral phone listings Expanded seating Harassment codes
Tamper-proof packaging Neighborhood watch programs Soothing music & lights Hotel registration
7. Assist Natural
2. Controlled Access: Assist Natural12. Removed Targets 17. Avoid Disputes 22. Posted Instructions:
Entry phones Improved street lighting Removable car radio Reduce crowding in pubs "No parking"
Electronic card access Defensible space design Women's refuges Separate enclosures for rival soccer fans "Private Property"
Baggage screening Support whistleblowers Prepaid pay phone cards "Extinguish camp fires"
Fixed cab fares
3. Screened Exits 8. Reduced Anonymity 13. Identified Property 18. Reduced Emotions: 23. Alert Conscience:
Ticket needed for exit Property marking Controls on violent pornography "Shoplifting is stealing" signs
Export documents Taxi driver IDs Vehicle licensing, VIN Enforce good behavior at sport games Roadside speed display signs
Electronic merchandise tags "How's my driving?" decals Cattle branding Prohibit racial slurs
Security guard at door School uniforms
19. Neutralize Peer
4. Deflect Offenders: 9. Use Place Managers: 14. Disrupted Markets re ure 24. Assist Compliance
Street closures Two clerks at convenience stores Monitored pawn shops "Idiots drink and drive" Easy library checkout
Separate women' bathrooms Reward employee vigilance Controls on classified ads "It's OK to say no" Public lavatories
Disperse pubs at certain times Controls on internet auction sites Disperse troublemakers at school Numerour litter bins
Licensed street vendors
5. Controlled 10. Strengthened Formal 15. Denied Benefits 20. Discourage Imitation: 25. Control Drugs &
15. Denied Benefits 20. Discourage Imitation:
Tools/Weapons: Surveillance: Alcohol
"Smart" guns Red light cameras Ink merchandise tags Rapid repair of vandalism Breathalyzers in pubs
Disabling stolen cell phones Burglar alarms Graffitl cleaning V-chips in TVs Server interventions
Restrict spraypaint sales to juveniles Security guards Speed bumps Censored details of modus operandi Alcohol-free events
Retrieved April 22nd, 2006 from www.popcenter.org.
The matrix of 25 Opportunity-Reducing Techniques is helpful to this study in that
it provides a framework for organizing, categorizing, and quantifying the physical cues
shoplifters cite as influential to their decision to steal (this process is explained in Chapter
3). Because the matrix is so detailed, it also helps clarify exactly how retailers and
designers can manipulate physical cues in the retail interior so as to deter crime.
Matrix of Physical Cues in the Retail Interior
Originally, the prevention techniques in the matrix of 25 Opportunity-Reducing
Techniques were geared to a wide array of circumstances from protecting cars to
preventing hooliganism. However, a retail adaptation was necessary for the study, since
the idea of situational crime prevention is "to change the circumstances leading up to or
surrounding the situation, thus making it more difficult for the potential offender to
accomplish the crime "(Newman et al, 1997, 9). In order to affect the circumstances
surrounding shoplifting behavior, it is necessary to have a set of strategies tailored to the
retail environment. This study proposes a retail-based matrix based on the original 25
Opportunity-Reducing Techniques, but specifically tailored to retail interiors. Following
an extensive literature review and consultation with some experts in the field of loss
prevention and situational crime prevention, the study determined ten categories to be
either redundant when considered in the retail context, or simply irrelevant. These
categories were removed, and the result is a specifically retail-based matrix consisting of
15 categories (see Table 3)2.
2 The categories removed are Reduced Anonymity, Controlled Tools/Weapons, Neutralized Peer Pressure,
Controlled Drugs and Alcohol, Avoided Disputes, Disrupted Markets, Identified Property, Removed
Targets, Assisted Compliance, and Denied Benefits.
Table 3: Matrix of Physical Cues in the Retail Interior.
1. Concealed & Hardened Targets
5. Extended Guardianship
9. Visible Targets
Presence of glass cases Presence of CCTV Presence of highly Presence of
Items kept behind counters Quantity of CCTV system visible CRAVED items shoplifting signage
Accessibility of displays Well-monitored CCTV ("Shoplifters will be
Accessibility of items Quality of CCTV system Prosecuted")
Presence of cords, locks, cables
2. Exit Access 6. Natural Surveillance 10. Frustrations 14. Instructions
Presence of blind spots
Access to exits Being noticed/unnoticed Quality of customer Signs indicating
Emergency exits Number of customers in service store policies
Number of exits Store layout "Ask for assistance"
Presence of garden areas Crowds signs
3. Exit Screening 7. Place Managers 11. Emotions 15. Conscience
Presence of EAS tags/sensors Attentiveness of employees Antiestablishment "Shoplifting is
Presence of EAS gates at door Quantity of employees sentiment stealing" signs
Store greeter at door Employees (general)
Security guard at door
4. Offender Deflection
8. Formal Surveillance
Police presence at store Attentiveness of security Maintenance level
Uniformed security staff Presence of previous
Undercover store detectives crimes
The 15 categories in this matrix are explained and illustrated in further detail
below, including how each relates to design strategies that may help retailers and
designers minimize shoplifting through retail interior design. It is important to realize the
duality of each of these cues. The visible presence of a cue can contribute to an
offender's sense of risk, while the lack of a cue can contribute to an offender's perception
of shoplifting opportunity (because of a perceived lack of risk):
1. Target Hardening & Concealment: A specific brand of opportunity reduction,
target hardening involves obstructing an offender's immediate access to CRAVED3
merchandise via locks, cases, safes, cords, cables, or reinforced materials (see
figure 12). Target hardening often creates opportunities for attractive, consumer-
friendly retail design; for example, an electronics display with hardened targets
allows shoppers to approach and try merchandise, but prohibits theft via cables
attached to products. However, if not mindfully implemented, hardened targets can
be off-putting to legitimate shoppers.
Figure 12: Target Hardening. At most jewelry stores, products are protected by locked
glass cases that prevent illegitimate access. But hardened targets need not be
unattractive: here we see how elegantly-designed cases can contribute to a
pleasant store atmosphere. Photo courtesy of author.
2. Access Control: In retail design, this technique refers to restricting offender exit
access and impeding speedy getaways. Several design strategies can facilitate this:
for moderately crime-prone stores, the simple addition of some displays or shelving
in the exit path can help. For stores with serious crime threats, installing railed
3 CRAVED stands for Concealable, Removable, Available, Valuable, Enjoyable, and Disposable. Products
meeting all these criteria are most likely to be stolen, like batteries and premium razor blades. See
pathways or channels leading to the exit can deter offenders, impede getaways, and
contribute to apprehensions (see figure 13).
Figure 13: Restricted Access Control. In this pharmacy retailer's high-crime store, the
retailer and designer worked together to install rails at the point of exit,
making it difficult for shoplifters to make a hasty getaway. Photo courtesy of
Figure 14: Unrestricted Access Control. This is a safer store in the same pharmacy
retailer's chain. Because this store suffers less theft, it is able to provide
patrons unrestricted exit access: a clear path straight to the door. Photo
courtesy of author.
3. Exit Screening: Exit screening provides a way for retailers to monitor activity at
the point of exit. In retail design, exit screening consists of two measures:
electronic article surveillance (EAS) gates, and door "greeters". "Greeters" may
reconcile receipts with items, maintain surveillance for shoplifting activity, or
ensure that returns are not fraudulent. However, to be most effective, the entry/exit
point must be designed to support these activities. Clear lines of sight will enable
employees to monitor the space, and well-defined spatial boundaries reinforce
territoriality and clearly define the space to be monitored.
4. Offender Deflection: Although not the easiest technique to accomplish via design,
it is possible to deflect offenders from stores. Some retailers accomplish this by
coordinating a police presence outside the store. This type of cue can dissuade
offenders from entering the store at all.
5. Extended Guardianship: In terms of retail design, the concept of "extended
guardianship" generally refers to the use of CCTV, which, when thoughtfully
planned and installed, can provide clear views of various store spaces (see figure
17). This technology allows retailers and LP experts to literally extend protection of
the store past the limits of their immediate view, providing "eyes" into hidden
spaces. Store design plays a crucial role in the effectiveness of CCTV: inadequate
camera coverage can contribute to "blind spots." These are desolate areas of the
store where offenders can go to surreptitiously stash products in bags or clothing,
unseen by cameras or people. The elimination of "blind spots" should be a
consideration for all retail designers. Design also affects the success of CCTV
technology itself, as camera coverage and viewing angles are often blocked by
poorly-placed monitors, shelves or displays (see figures 15 and 16) (Cardone,
Video capture courtesy of IntelliVid Corp.
Figure 15: Poor CCTV positioning: The performance of this store's CCTV system is
limited by the large monitor blocking the camera's view. When designers and
retailers don't collaborate on CCTV installation, views like this result. CCTV
image capture courtesy of IntelliVid Corp.
Video captures courtesy of Intel]
Figure 16: Poor CCTV Positioning: These examples show how poor design and planning
can hinder CCTV effectiveness. In image A, reflected glare in a store's
entry/exit point limits the clarity of one camera image. This makes it difficult
for security to identify theft acts on the CCTV monitor. In image B, signs and
monitors block CCTV camera views, again rendering it difficult for security
staff to monitor crime via the camera system. CCTV image captures courtesy
of IntelliVid Corp.
Figure 17: Optimal CCTV positioning: In images A and B, we see the ideal CCTV
camera placement, uninterrupted by signs or objects. Designers should keep
CCTV cameras in mind when designing stores, and strive for these types of
expansive views. CCTV image captures courtesy of IntelliVid Corp.
6. Natural Surveillance: The term "natural" simply refers to design strategies whose
functions, when incorporated into the overall environment, become "an inherent, or
natural part of the design" (Atlas, 2001, 40). Natural surveillance gives users and
casual observers the ability to monitor a space, and therefore increase an offender's
sense of vulnerability or risk. The visual presence of employees or the feeling of
"being watched" can have a significant deterrent effect on would-be offenders.
However, neither of these effects will work without retail design that supports
surveillance (see figure 18). Although considered a single technique in the matrix,
"natural surveillance" actually encompasses a wide range of strategies, including
lowered (> 60") shelf and fixture heights; wide, clear aisles; placing CRAVED
products in very visible areas; the installation of mirrors; ample lighting; and the
creation of lengthy, unobstructed lines of sight. Any technique that aids in viewing
or observing the retail space (and thus increasing offenders' sense of risk) falls into
the category of natural surveillance (see figures 19 and 20).
The success of natural surveillance as a tool for actually detecting and
apprehending criminals is contingent on two factors: a design that supports visual
surveillance of the space, and competent and compliant observers who actively
respond to crime incidents. While it is impossible to ensure that a store will always
contain vigilant and observant customers ready to spot and react to shoplifting, it is
possible to create an environment that allows certain observers to react to certain
crime situations (some shoplifters indeed fear being seen or apprehended by a
"hero" customer, as will be discussed later). Again, it is the potential for being seen
that affects a shoplifter's perception of risk, and design that facilitates natural
surveillance increases that potential.
Figure 18: Poor natural surveillance. Here, the cashier's view of the store is blocked by
high shelves and poorly-arranged aisles, making it difficult for active
monitoring of the space. Also, CRAVED items are placed far from the
employee's line of sight. Ideally, CRAVED items would be placed in direct
view of employees, as it can indirectly increase a potential offender's sense of
risk. Photo courtesy of author.
Figure 19: Good natural surveillance. Here, thanks to mindful store design, the
pharmacists have a clear line of sight down several aisles. Photo courtesy of
Figure 20: Good natural surveillance. This is one view from the pharmacy department.
CRAVED items are on the left, plainly visible to the employees working in
the pharmacy. This product placement increases a sense of risk for potential
shoplifters. Photo courtesy of author.
7. Place Managers: "Place managers," in the retail context, refers to store employees.
This strategy is dependent, in part, on the idea of territoriality: through the creation
of clearly defined "territories," employees are more apt to defend and protect the
"places" they "manage". Retail design can optimize place management in a couple
of ways: first, designers and retailers should work together to determine where in
the store employees should be located. Positioning multiple clerks in strategic areas
of the store can facilitate a variety of situational crime prevention techniques.
Secondly, store layout should aim to position CRAVED products as close to these
place managers as possible in order to provide an extra level of protection (see
figure 21). It is important to note the role management and motivation plays in LP
efforts here: while retailers often cite employees as the first and best line of defense
against shoplifting (Hayes and Blackwood, 2006c), even the best planned store
cannot force an employee to monitor a space. Retailers must provide employees
incentive and reward for vigilant surveillance of the store without it, a well-
designed, security-focused interior layout may be wasted.
Figure 21: Place Management: This national discount retailer uses a "store-within-store"
design to protect CRAVED electronics. Here, we see how the Home
Electronics department has its own checkout point. The entire department is
surrounded by high shelves, making this point the only way to enter or exit.
The department was also designed to allow the employee staffing the
checkout a clear line of sight (the yellow arrow) to numerous displays of
CRAVED items like DVDs and music CDs. Photo courtesy of author.
8. Formal Surveillance: Like natural surveillance, the concept of formal surveillance
is based on the idea that increasing observation opportunities decreases crime.
However, while natural surveillance applies to users and casual observers, formal
surveillance refers specifically to retail employees and LP staff, including both
uniformed security officers and undercover store detectives. The design strategies
that enhance formal surveillance are the same as those for natural surveillance (see
Figure 22: Formal Surveillance: The design of this pharmacy includes a designated
counter placed in the cosmetics department. The employee at this counter has
a clear view of the area she manages, allowing her to assist customers and
provide formal surveillance of the space. Photo courtesy of author.
9. Visible Targets: Similar to target hardening, the goal of target concealment is to
prevent illegitimate access to CRAVED products. For example, some pharmacy
retailers position CRAVED products like batteries, film, razor blades, or tooth
whiteners behind checkout counters. Signs in the items' usual aisle locations
inform consumers of the items' relocation, redirecting them to the checkout area
(see figure 24). While this strategy works well to minimize shoplifting, legitimate
consumers are often left frustrated, which can decrease sales (Moussatche et al,
2004). Retail design can mitigate this situation through the incorporation of other
defensive strategies, like positioning CRAVED products in direct sight of
employees or LP staff (see figure 23).
Figure 23: Visible Targets. Instead of concealing targets or relocating them behind
counters, a better tactic may be to locate CRAVED products (circled in
yellow) in direct view of employees. Here, for example, store design has
places CRAVED film and disposable cameras in an area closely monitored by
store employees. Photo courtesy of author.
Figure 24: Target Concealment. In order to minimize loss, many retailers move
CRAVED items to more secure locations. Razor blades, for example, may be
relocated from the aisle to behind a counter. Signs in the aisle redirect
consumers to the counter for products. This tactic may prevent theft but can
also be off-putting to legitimate consumers. Photo courtesy of author.
10. Reduce Frustrations: Shoplifting, at times, can result from sheer frustration with
the retail experience: long lines, inattentive customer service, or high prices can
reduce a legitimate shopper to an enraged shoplifter (Klemke 1992). While research
linking shopping frustrations with shoplifting is scant, a pleasant, well-designed
interior can't hurt. Retail interiors should be planned with the consumer's ease of
shopping in mind; layouts should facilitate fast checkout, and designers should
strive to position employees at multiple places in the store to assist with customer
queries (see figure 25).
Figure 25: Reduce Frustrations. The amount of clear space in front of this checkout
counter prevents a frustrating queue, minimizes confusion due to crowding,
and prevents consumers from becoming upset. Photo courtesy of author.
11. Reduce Emotions: Some research has linked antiestablishment attitudes with
shoplifting, as some offenders believe that giant corporations either "deserve" to be
stolen from, or can easily absorb shoplifting losses (Klemke, 1992). Design can, to
some extent, project an image that offsets such beliefs. Smaller-scale stores, "store-
within-store" design, or the overall feeling of a "mom-and-pop" establishment may
12. Discourage Imitation: Research points to signs of incivility (like trash or
vandalism) as possible factors conducive to crime (see figure 26)4 (Coleman, 1990;
Harcourt, 1998; Kelling, 1996). Therefore, a well-maintained store interior will
contribute to decreased crime more than a shoddy, ill-kept one (see figure 27).
Figure 26: Poor Maintenance. Here, CRAVED items are haphazardly positioned on
shoddy, ill-kept shelves. According to "broken windows" theory, this may
attract crime. Photo courtesy of author.
Figure 27: Excellent Maintenance. This store's display shelves are in good condition,
clean, and well-lit. Store design that projects this type of well-maintained
atmosphere may dissuade potential offenders because it seems cared for.
Photo courtesy of author.
4 Like many CPTED research, Coleman's research has been disputed over the years. However, a well-
maintained store environment has many benefits aside from crime prevention, so retailers should strive for
it regardless of research disputes.
13. Set Rules: In terms of shoplifting, the best way to "set rules" is to post visible
signage indicating the store's shoplifting policy (see figure 28). This may help deter
Figure 28: Set Rules. Retail designers should always keep in mind the influence signage
can have on user behavior. This store has clear signs indicating their use of
CCTV, which implies a stringent shoplifter apprehension policy. Photo
courtesy of author.
14. Post Instructions: Similar to #21 above, visible signage alluding to stringent store
policies (such as returns, exchanges, or check-writing) can help deter offenders.
15. Alert conscience: Also similar to #21, visible signage reminding shoplifters that
"shoplifting is a crime" has been shown to have a deterrence effect (Klemke, 1992).
16. Assist Compliance: Similar to #18 (reduce emotions), a store that is designed to
make legitimate shopping as easy and pleasant as possible can contribute to
minimizing crime in some cases.
Each of the abovementioned techniques has design implications in the retail
interior. Understanding the matrix of Physical Cues in the Retail Interior and how its
techniques translate into the world of shoplifting and retail interiors is integral to the
current study, as it is used to categorize and quantify the elements offenders mention in
their interviews. Furthermore, the matrix forms the foundation for this study's most
crucial connection: how retail design can maximize the effectiveness of these offender-
influencing environmental cues.
This chapter provided a context for the study of how cues in the retail interior
influence shoplifter perceptions. It began with an overview of the scale and scope of the
shoplifting problem and a description of how the many responses to retail theft have not,
to date, solved the problem. A literature review underscored a paucity of
security/shoplifting information in the current body of retail interior design literature. It
went on to summarize several research studies addressing the link between crime and
environment and shoplifter perceptions of the environment. While none of these studies
is interior-design-based, collectively they underscore the potential interior design has for
influencing criminal behaviors like shoplifting. Finally, this chapter presented a
theoretical framework for the current study based on three theories: rational choice, the
theft triangle, and situational crime prevention. An explanation of how this study uses the
framework follows in Chapter 3.
RESEARCH METHODOLOGY AND LIMITATIONS
In order to explore how shoplifters factor retail interiors into the decision to steal,
this study employs a theory of environmental criminology: rational choice. Rational
choice theory tells us that crime offenders are active decision-makers who apply reason
to their assessment of criminal opportunities5 (Clarke and Felson, 1993). For instance, a
shoplifter assesses a situation, collects available information, and weighs potential risks
and rewards before deciding whether or not to steal. The current study uses two
frameworks derived from rational choice theory in order to operationalize shoplifter
statements regarding retail interior environments: the theft triangle and situational crime
prevention. Together, these frameworks help us understand how particular situations
present physical elements that may shape criminal behavior, prompting it or discouraging
it. The retail interior is an integral component in this process, as it is within its context
that these "cues" manifest themselves and are processed by offenders. According to the
paradigms presented by these three cited criminology frameworks, then, if retailers and
designers apply strategic, security-focused designs to store interiors, it may be possible to
manipulate environmental cues in such a way as to discourage theft.
However, before this can occur, we need to better understand what these
environmental cues are, and which ones influence shoplifter perceptions with the most
frequency. Several past studies on offender behavior have used offender interviews to
Rational choice theory excludes from this generalization the mentally ill, kleptomaniacs, and those under the
influence of drugs.
obtain this type of data (Forrester, Chatterton & Pease, 1988; Butler, 1994). The
challenge of extracting this information from shoplifter interviews forms this study's
research question: using interviews with known shoplifting offenders, can we isolate and
identify the physical cues shoplifters cite as influential to their perceptions of crime risk
versus crime opportunity in retail interiors? Answering this question will provide a better
understanding of how retail environments shape shoplifter perceptions an
understanding that can, in turn, inform helpful new strategies for designing effective and
secure retail spaces.
In order to analyze shoplifter perceptions of retail interiors, it is necessary to gather
data from shoplifters themselves: a difficult and time-consuming task. The easiest way to
collect a sample for a study such as this is through store or court records of apprehended
shoplifters. But historically, these samples have been viewed skeptically, owing to range
restriction bias with apprehended (and perhaps incompetent) offenders (Decker, 2005).
The 20 interviews comprising this study's sample were originally conducted by the
Loss Prevention Research Council (LPRC), a multidisciplinary team of professionals
based in Gainesville Florida, several of whom are affiliated with the University of
Florida. In order to offset the aforementioned bias, LPRC solicited research participants
via a snowball sampling method. Working in conjunction with store detectives at major
retailers, LPRC obtained profiles of recently apprehended, but not jailed, shoplifters.
These individuals were contacted and informed of the research project. LPRC then
provided willing participants a monetary incentive for the names and contact information
of other known offenders. The sampling process ensured the sample was not solely
comprised of apprehended shoplifters.
Quality of Data
While this sample size (20 participants) may seem small, it is in fact quite
substantial considering the transitory, unstructured lifestyle many experienced shoplifters
live, and the inherent difficulty involved in scheduling and performing interviews with
criminals. As Forrester et al point out, the "particular difficulties of this approach are
obvious" (1988, 3). While each individual interview was only an hour or so in duration,
the process of identifying, locating, and meeting with each offender often took several
weeks. However, the opportunity to use data from active, repeat offenders also had its
advantages, as "repeat offenders can be among the most useful sources of information
for strategic purposes" and "interviewing active offenders makes it much more likely that
the information about motives, techniques, and associations will be closer to the offense,
and thus more valid" (Decker, 2005, no page). The resulting 20 interviews used in this
study are comprehensive in nature, rich in data, and dense in content a literature review
reveals that this type of data source is rare in the world of criminology, a fact that in itself
marks this study as significant.
LPRC conducted the interviews used in this study in Orlando, Florida, in 2000;
Dania, Florida, in June of 2002; and Chicago, Illinois, in July 2002. LPRC conducted the
interviews in person in a hotel room. The interviews were both video- and audio-
recorded, then transcribed by an independent transcription agency. The resulting
transcripts ranged in length, due primarily to the length and wordiness of the offenders;
some offenders expounded on each topic with long, descriptive responses while others
gave curt one-word answers. Two examples of average-length offender transcripts are
included in Appendices A and B.
The demographics of the participants in the study are detailed in Table 2. Of the 20
interviewed participants, the majority were male (90 percent) and white (35 percent). 45
percent of the participants had been arrested for shoplifting, again indicating this sample
was not biased toward incompetent offenders.
Table 4: Sample Demographics
AGE (in years) GENDER ETHNICITY INTERVIEWED IN
20-29 (4) 20% male (18) 90% white (7) 35% Chicago, IL, 2002 (5)
30-39 (3) 15% female (1) 5% black (1) 5% Dania Beach, FL, 2002 (10
40-49 (6) 30% unknown (1) 5% hispanic (4) 20% Orlando, FL, 2000 (5)
50-59 (2) 10% unknown (8) 40%
unknown (5) 25%
SHOPLIFTING? TIMES ARRESTED EMPLOYMENT EDUCATION
yes (9) 45%
no (7) 35%
unknown (4) 20%
<01 (7) 35%
1-5 (6) 30%
6-10 (1) 5%
11-15 (0) 0%
16-20 (1) 5%
>20 (1) 5%
unknown (4) 20%
full-time (8) 40%
part-time (1) 5%
unemployed (6) 30%
unknown (5) 25%
The primary study method involves a secondary data analysis of semi-structured
interviews with known and admitted shoplifting offenders. The analysis is secondary
because the initial goal of the interviews was to examine a wide range of the determining
factors behind shoplifting, including product type, display techniques, product packaging,
potential for item resale, store location, interior design, and existing security measures.
The study employs both narrative and content analyses. The content analysis provides a
systematic approach to categorizing and quantifying the massive amounts of qualitative
data contained in the interviews. Narrative analysis (in the form of individual excerpts
from the offender interview transcripts) provides a contextual "safety net" that catches
important tonal implications or thematic subtleties overlooked by the content analysis
(Spence, 1982). Both methods are described in detail below.
A content analysis is "a technique used to extract desired information from a body
of material (usually verbal) by systematically and objectively identifying specified
characteristics of the material" (Smith, 2000, 314). In the current study, the body of
material refers to the 20 transcribed offender interviews. The specified characteristics of
the material refers to the cues the study seeks to categorize and quantify: physical cues in
the retail interior shoplifters cite as influential to the decision to steal.
According to Smith (2000), a content analysis consists of 11 steps. These steps, and
their relevance to the current study, are:
1. State the research problem. Do certain physical cues in the retail interior influence
offender perceptions ease or difficulty associated with the shoplifting act? If so,
what do they notice, how do they interpret it, and how does this process affect their
subsequent behavior? Moreover, do analytical tools derived from the theft triangle
and situational crime prevention help us understand, categorize and practically use
offender interview data?
2. Decide / whether the content analysis will provide the needed information. As a
research tool, the content analysis determines the existence and frequency of certain
words, phrases, sentences, and concepts pertaining to physical features of a retail
environment within the transcript texts. Codifying these elements allows for
systematic description of the form and content of written or spoken material
methodical categorization and analysis of data within various interview transcripts.
It also enables the study to go beyond the immediate content of the interviews and
further capture the thoughts and beliefs that fuel the offenders' decision-making
processes (Sommer and Sommer, 2002).
3. Decide what type of qualitative material will best provide the information. The
LPRC interview instrument used in this study was well-suited for determining
shoplifter perceptions because while it posed the same questions to each
participant, it was also flexible (a list of the questions used in this instrument are
included in Appendix C). The presentation or order of the questions varied, often in
accordance with the natural flow of conversation. This is called a semi-structured
interview (Bartholomew, Henderson, & Marcia, 2000); an interviewing method that
allowed participants to expand on and describe thoughts and ideas. Using it gave
the data a richness and complexity that frequently approached narrative form (the
implications of which will be discussed later). One of the drawbacks of the semi-
structured interview, however, is that relevant data was often scattered and
somewhat unorganized. A content analysis was therefore appropriate for this study
because the coding process identified information relevant to the current study -
information which was often descriptive in nature and did not lend itself to
4. Decide how to select the chosen material and the amount needed. N/a the
material was predetermined in the interview transcripts.
5. Decide on a content analysis coding system. In order to reduce the massive amount
of text in the interviews to an organized set of quantifiable data, the content
analysis employs a process called coding, in which "coders" classified words or
phrases according to content, context, and meaning. The formation of a reliable,
thorough coding system is an integral part of any successful content analysis, as it
enables accurate collection, identification and operationalization of all data relevant
to the research question and allows the analysis to be replicated with some amount
of consistency (Stemler, 1997). The coding system in this study is informed by a
combination of situational crime theory and security-minded design practice. It is
derived from situational crime prevention's 25 Opportunity-Reducing Techniques,
but reduced to 15 techniques targeted toward retail interiors. The resulting Matrix
of Physical Cues in the Retail Interior (see Matrix 2) contains four general category
headings, 15 categories, and numerous detailed subcategories. Offender statements
are coded using these detailed subcategories (which can also be referred to as
secondary variables, as they are "subsumed by, or a constituent of, the primary
constructs [categories] under investigation") (Bartholomew et al., 2000, 294). The
subcategories further assist with sifting scattered data, an important step for
reliable, valid data analysis, since "faulty definitions of categories and non-
mutually exclusive and exhaustive categories" are the two fatal flaws in a content
analysis (Stemler, 2001, no page). The thoroughness and expansiveness of these
categories provide a classification system that facilitate accurate content analysis.
6. Obtain pilot material on which to try out the coding system. For the purpose of this
study, one offender interview serves as as pilot material.
7. Train coders. This involves reviewing the entire study with a fellow coder, and
explaining in detail how the coding system works. As stated previously, a very
clear, well-defined coder manual is imperative for accurate results and optimal
validity. However, the categories in this study's coding manual (the Physical Cues
in the Retail Interior matrix) are by no means mutually exclusive. Although
situational crime prevention's matrix attaches specific strategies to theoretical
concepts, it is still in essence a flexible, dynamic framework. The system of
categories in this study's coding manual matrix may seem rigid, but it is in fact not.
Some shoplifter statements fit as easily into one category as the next. This is an
important clarification to make when training coders.
8. Obtain the final material to be analyzed, n/a, since interview transcripts had
already been obtained.
9. Code the material. The coding process inherent to the content analysis provides a
systematic approach to categorizing and quantifying the massive amounts of
qualitative data in the study's sample of 20 semi-structured interviews. This study's
content analysis uses the matrix of Physical Cues in the Retail Interior to identify
words, phrases or sentences about perceptions of risk versus opportunity in retail
interiors. In addition to actual coding of interview transcripts, it is also important to
determine the inter-rater reliability of the coding system. As Stemler (2001)
explains, this tests whether coding schemes lead to the same text being coded in the
same category by different people. An inter-rater reliability test applied to 15
percent of the interview transcripts measures how well two different coders agree
on interpretation of the data (Batholomew et al, 2000). As Smith notes, one of the
most frequently-used indices for determining this was developed by McClelland et.
al. in 1953: 2 (# of agreements between coders on presence of category) / ((# coded
present by Coder 1) + (# coded present by Coder 2)). Agreement of 85 percent is
considered satisfactory, but for exploratory studies such as this one, a "somewhat
lower degree of inter-rater reliability is acceptable" (Smith, 2000, 325). The results
of the inter-rater reliability test are included in Table 3.
10. Analyze the data. For this study, data analysis involves a dual perspective. While a
retail interior's environmental cues can be neatly categorized into the various
categories of the Physical Cues in the Retail Interior matrix, shoplifters sometimes
perceive individual cues in decidedly opposing manners: again, one shoplifter's
risk is another's opportunity. This phenomenon is further explained in Chapter 4's
11. Interpret the results.
In order to ascertain the reliability of content analysis as a research tool, this study
includes an inter-rater reliability test that measured one coder's results against another's.
A fellow coder was selected based on her basic familiarity with the project. After reading
the study research proposal, the primary coder explained the coding manuals (the
Physical Cues in the Retail Interior matrix) and performed a pilot analysis while the
secondary coder looked on. Once the secondary coder was familiar with the content
analysis process, she was given three random offender interviews to code. Both coders
performed a content analysis on these same three random interviews. Again, it is
important to realize here that the Physical Cues in the Retail Interior matrix (which is also
the coding manual) was not rigid, and the categories not always mutually exclusive.
Table 4 shows the results of the Inter-rater Reliability test. Results show that each
of the two coders who performed the test identified a total of 107 offender statements
about physical cues that influence perceptions of shoplifting risk or opportunity6. In
addition, each coder found that over 80 percent of offender statements fell into the same
four categories. The test shows that categorical agreement ranges from 55 percent to 98
percent, with an average percent agreement of 78 percent, suggesting a fairly reliable
Table 5: Inter-Rater Reliability Test Results
Amt. Coded Amt. Coded Present Percent
Category Present by Coder 1 by Coder 2 Agreement
Hardened Targets 25 26 98%
Exit Access 8 3 55%
Exit Screening 11 8 84%
Extended Guardianship 15 8 70%
Natural Surveillance 24 39 76%
Place Managers 4 2 67%
Formal Surveillance 20 21 98%
TOTAL 107 107 AVG: 78%
6 Although a similar number of identified statements between the two coders was expected, the fact that
they each identified exactly 107 statements is probably due, in part, to chance.
This study uses a matrix of Physical Cues in the Retail Interior as the instrument to
measure offender statements about cues they cite as influential to the decision to steal.
Because this instrument was developed as part of the project, it is important to discuss its
validity. Validity is defined as "the extent to which any measuring instrument measures
what it is intended to measure" (Carmines and Zeller, 1979, 17). In this case, the study is
measuring offender perceptions of cues in the retail interior. Therefore, it is important to
assess the validity of the matrix of Physical Cues in the Retail Interior as a means of
measuring such perceptions. As Carmines and Zeller (1979) point out, establishing a
valid means of measurement in the social sciences can be complex, as abstract theoretical
concepts (like perceptions of risk and opportunity) do not often have "an agreed upon
domain of content relevant to the phenomenon" (1979, pg. 21). In such cases, face
validity is often applied. Face validity "concerns the extent to which [the instrument]
measures what it appears to measure according to the researcher's subjective assessment"
(Frankfort-Nachmias, 1992, 158). However, this subjectivity is an inherent limitation to
face validity, as there are "no replicable procedures for evaluating the measuring
instrument" (Frankfort-Nachmias, 1992, 158).
Several components contribute to the validity of this study's measuring instrument,
the Matrix of Physical Cues in the Retail Interior (Table 3). First, it was specifically
adapted with the researcher's experience in the retail design and loss prevention field in
mind, and only after an extensive review of loss prevention, retail design, and
environmental criminology literature. Second, the instrument was derived from
situational crime prevention's 25 Opportunity-Reducing Techniques (Table 2), a well-
known framework of crime prevention strategies developed by an expert in the field of
crime prevention, Ronald Clarke (1997). As Schneider and Kitchen (2002) make clear,
this group of techniques is a "robust and developing" means of assessing situational
crime prevention, as "its growing number of advocates have significantly broadened the
theoretical bases on which crime prevention planning rests (pg. 104). Finally, while Clark
developed the original 25 techniques to address a wide range of situational crime
prevention goals (Clark, 1997), they have also been applied in strictly retail settings.
Hayes' (1997) research on improving deterrence and reducing loss in retail stores also
employed these techniques. Hayes referred to the set of techniques as "a very useful
model for retail crime and loss control purposes" (Hayes, 1997, 4). Therefore, the face
validity of this study's matrix of Physical Cues in the Retail Interior as a measuring
instrument is strengthened by both the source from which it is derived, and the
researchers and industry experts who advocate its use.
As mentioned earlier, the semi-structured nature of the offender interviews allowed
participants to provide lengthy, descriptive responses to questions if so desired. Some of
these responses are so lengthy, in fact, they resemble narrative. For example, consider
this offender's response when asked what part of the store he goes to in order to hide an
It depends, because ur, it depends, it depends on how many people are in the store,
how many people are on that aisle, how many cameras are around me, and how
many employees are in that section. Okay, those are all factors you've got to look
at, now as you get, as you see it coming you got to understand that it's like when
you're driving you 've got to premeditate what might come like that guy right there
in the next lane might just jump into your lane, but you 're premeditate before it
happens, you know. So you've got to worry, okay, what if that lady right there
standing next you isn't, you know, a customer and yet she's an undercover
employee, security, you know, so you've got to look at it like that so basically what
they're going to is you're going to go to the bathroom because in a bathroom, like I
said, you pocket it, go to the bathroom make sure you know de-code it you know,
make sure you get the alarm off or if they're going to take the whole package
before they even do that they 'll act like they're looking at it. You know what I'm
\,rin/-i. like okay, but what they're really looking at it in an upper angle, you know
like, "oh wow, it's pretty nice da-da-da, but yet they're balling the cameras to see
where the cameras are located and that's how they know. -"Joey"
In this one response, the offender mentions several themes relevant to the current study's
* Natural Surveillance (it depends how many people are in the store, how many
people are on that aisle)
* Extended Guardianship (how many cameras are around me ... see where the
cameras are located)
* Place Managers (how many employees are in that section)
* Formal Surveillance (what if that lady next to isn't, you know, a customer and yet
she's an undercover employee, security, you know, so you've got to look at it like
* and Target Hardening (make sure you got the tag off) among others.
However, while the passage can be reduced to these individual themes, it is also
worthwhile to examine the response holistically, as a recollection of past events, since, in
essence, what the offenders are doing as they answer these questions is providing a
summarized oral history of their shoplifting history. When Joey's response is considered
from a narrative angle, thematic subtexts arise: paranoia, worry, vulnerability, and
nervousness could all characterize the tone implicit in his account. Such nuances are too
vague to be accounted for by a strictly code-based content analysis, which is why the
flexible, subjective nature of narrative analysis is so helpful to this study. As Smith
(2000) explains, a narrative is "an oral, written, or filmed account of events told to others
or to oneself used to refer to accounts of personal experiences, or the experiences of
others, or to fictional accounts." Smith also makes the important distinction between
narrative and impersonal explanation: narratives are not "purely descriptive, expository
(e.g., an explanation of how to assemble furniture), disconnected, or abstract" (pg. 328).
It is in this context that the relevance of narrative analysis methodology to the current
study becomes evident. Because so many of the offender responses are narrative in
nature, it is impossible to capture the embedded context and layers of meaning using
content analysis alone. Narrative analysis is more appropriate when primacy of context is
an issue, and is thus better equipped to convey the expressive breadth of an offender's
response (Smith, 2000, 327).
Narrative Analysis in Interior Design Research
Narrative analysis is also particularly well-suited for this study because of its
growing popularity in interior design research. A number of recent studies in the design
field have employed narrative analysis to explore various issues (Danko, Meneely,
Portillo, 2006; Miller, 2005; McDonnell, Lloyd & Valkenburg, 2004; Portillo and Dorr,
2000; Zeisle, 2000; Ganoe, 1999) including an entire issue of the Journal of Interior
Design (Portillo, 2000) devoted to the subject. Why the pairing of narrative analysis and
interior design? Some cite a similarity in theme between narrative inquiry and the design
process itself: "Narrative, like design, is context-dependent. Both are a creative
outgrowth of the details and situational events that characterize a particular time and
place" (Danko et al, 2006, 12). Others propose that it is the inherently interdisciplinary,
multifaceted quality of narrative analysis that warrants its suitability to design research.
"The characteristics of the narrative that help to organize the complex world of people,
entities, and events through the language of stories provides a flexible framework for
understanding and expanding the meanings of design" (Ganoe, 1999, 2). In essence,
narrative analysis provides a way to understand perceptions of retail interiors in context,
in perspective, and in a holistic manner.
This study incorporates various excerpts from offender interviews throughout
Chapter 4. Due to the subjective and flexible nature of narrative, a formal tally of the
narrative analysis' "findings" is not feasible; however, the study uses narratives to
emphasize and expand on the content analysis' findings. In this way, the two forms of
analysis reinforce one another and provided a means of understanding the data that is
more comprehensive than if either form were used alone.
Several limitations affect the outcome of this study. One is the source and validity
of the transcript data. As experts in the field of loss prevention research, LPRC routinely
conducts studies focusing on crime and loss techniques for the retail sector, and
understands the complex nature of gathering shoplifting data. This type of data is usually
based on either apprehension case reports or self-report data. LPRC understands that both
of these methods are inherently limited by sampling and measurement error.
Apprehension data, collected when the shoplifter is caught and in various states of mind,
can be more indicative of security personnel skill, scheduling, search imaging, and
workplace practices than shoplifting behavior. Self-report data are most often collected
via self-administered questionnaires or surveys. This too can lead to flawed data, as
results depend on shoplifters' abilities, and willingness to share, past events, as well as
their truthfulness (Klemke, 1992). To avoid these pitfalls, LPRC conducted the
interviews via a snowball sampling method in which apprehended shoplifters were given
monetary incentives to provide the names and phone numbers of other known offenders.
Nevertheless, this study was still limited to the interviewed offenders' ability to recollect
past events and willingness to (truthfully) share them.
LPRC conducted these interviews with a wide range of shoplifters from various
cities and backgrounds. The interviews did not focus on any particular type of store or
setting. Therefore, the data acquired from these interviews is general in nature, without
reference to specific stores, times, or incidents (unless noted by offender). This study is
limited by such generalization, and future follow-up studies may be improved by
focusing the data on specific stores, settings, or incidents, to generate more targeted
Similarly, the data in this study is based on shoplifters' recollections of store
environments. Were the interviews administered in the actual retail environment, answers
could have been more specific. It is important to note, however, some proponents of
narrative analysis prefer experiential recollections. Spence (1982) differentiates between
historical truth and narrative truth, concluding the historical, or literal, truth of an event is
often less useful to research than the narrative truth, which is more indicative of an
individual's subjective recollection of the experience, and thus more informative of their
beliefs and intentions. For example, an offender's recollection (accurate or not) of feeling
vulnerable in a space because of CCTV monitors could be just as useful if not more so
- as an offender's actual experience of feeling vulnerable in a space because of CCTV
Another limitation to this study is the small sample size. Sample size is an integral
component of successful research, as it "affects the range, reliability, and accuracy of the
values measured" (Smith, 2000, 320). Due to the inherent costliness of conducting the
interviews and the difficult nature of contacting and scheduling interviews with criminal
offenders, only 20 are included in this study. Future studies, conducted with more
participants, could further improve results.
The content analysis process itself also has limits. This study employs just two
coders, and only one reliability test is performed. Were the study to employ several
coders, the reliability of the results may have been different and perhaps improved.
The main limitation of narrative analysis stems from its purely subjective and
interpretive nature. As a method of research, the narrative analysis is based solidly in the
ability of the reader to interpret the meaning and context of the discourse. While some
advocates of narrative analysis "do not regard the concept of validity as directly
applicable to narrative research," in reality it suffers many of the same limitations as
other qualitative methods of research, like content analysis (Smith, 2000, 331).
The use of secondary data presents its own limitations. As previously mentioned,
the interviews in this study were originally gathered by LPRC for numerous purposes.
Perceptions of retail interiors, while present in the interviews, were only one component
of a larger range of questions. To further improve the validity of this study's results, it
could be specifically tailored to gathering of design-based information about retail
There are also some inherent limitations to the use of the semi-structured interview.
Paradoxically, its main benefit flexibility is also its main drawback. While the SSI
allows interviewers to steer the conversation in natural directions and participants to
provide elaborate responses and detailed data, this flexibility also inhibits data analysis
since lengthy, conversational data is difficult to code and categorize (Bartholomew et al,
This chapter described the study's research methodology, providing details about
the sample of participants involved, including their demographics. After a detailed
explanation of the study's methodology, the two forms of analysis used content
analysis and narrative analysis were both defined discussed in terms of applicability to
and appropriateness for this particular study. The reliability and validity of the content
analysis were discussed, as well as the applicability of narrative analysis in the field of
interior design. The chapter concluded with an overview of the various limitations
impacting this study's outcomes.
The purpose of this study is to determine if offenders factor retail interior design
into their decision to shoplift, and if so, to identify the physical cues they cite as
influential to that decision. Analyzing these cues through the lens of rational choice
theory and two related frameworks (situational crime prevention and the theft triangle),
this study's content analysis indicates that offenders do consider retail interiors in their
decision to steal. Moreover, the content analysis shows evidence that offenders consider
some features of retail interiors more frequently than others. This chapter explains these
findings through a detailed account of the content and narrative analysis results.
The Matrix of Physical Cues in the Retail Interior (see Table 3) was the coding tool
used in this study's content analysis. A specifically retail-oriented version of situational
crime prevention's matrix of 25 Opportunity-Reducing Techniques, this matrix
categorized offender statements about cues in the retail interior on three different levels:
* Category Headings. The most general categories in the Matrix of Physical Cues in
the Retail Interior are the four category headings: Perceived Effort, Perceived Risk,
Perceived Provocation, and Perceived Excuses. The content analysis findings (see
Table 6) placed over 95 percent of offender statements into the first two category
headings, Perceived Effort and Perceived Risk. This presents strong support for the
theories of rational choice and the theft triangle, which both assert that offender
perceptions of risk are a major determinant in the decision to commit a crime.
* Categories. The content analysis revealed a total of 639 statements in which
offenders cited a physical cue as influential to their perception of shoplifting risk or
opportunity (see Table 6). The analysis categorized each of these into one of the 15
main categories in the Matrix of Physical Cues in the Retail Interior. Results show
that over 70 percent of offender statements fell into four of the 15 categories:
Hardened Targets, Extended Guardianship, Natural Surveillance, and Formal
S Subcategories: The content analysis further refined offender statements into
subcategories containing detailed descriptions of various interior conditions found
in the retail environment. These descriptions include statements such as "Presence
of glass cases" under the category heading of "Hardened Targets," or "Quantity of
Employees" under the category heading of "Place Managers". The content analysis
placed any offender statements about such conditions in that subcategory, whether
the offender's statement conveyed a perception that the condition was a risk or an
opportunity. For instance, an offender's comment about the presence of a glass case
being a shoplifting risk was categorized the same way as a statement about the lack
of glass cases being an opportunity. In either statement, the offender cited the
presence of a physical cue (or lack thereof) as influential to his/her perception of
crime risk or opportunity.
Table 6 shows a detailed breakdown of the content analysis findings. The findings are
1. Hardened Targets 14 percent of offender statements about physical cues
contributing to a perception of shoplifting risk or opportunity fell into this category. Its
subcategories (and number of statements they contain) include:
* Glass cases (items within perceived as deterrent, lack thereof perceived as
opportunity): 17 statements
* Cashier counter (merchandise kept behind perceived as deterrent, merchandise not
kept behind perceived as opportunity): 3 statements
* Display racks (displays perceived as easy to access or difficult to access): 38
* Access to items (items perceived as easy to access or difficult to access): 21
* Locks, cables, cords and chains (locked and secured items perceived as shoplifting
deterrent, or unlocked, unsecured items as opportunity): 10 statements
Table 6: Content Analysis Findings
PERCEIVED EFFORT: 29%
1. Concealed & Hardened
Presence of glass cases
Items kept behind counters
Accessibility of displays
Accessibility of items
Presence of cords, locks, cables
PROVOCATION: 2.5% EXCUSES: 2%
5. Extended Guardianship: 18%
Presence of CCTV
Quantity of CCTV system
Quality of CCTV system
9. Visible Targets: 2%
Presence of highly
visible CRAVED items
13. Rules: 2%
2. Exit Access: 4% 7. Natural Surveillance: 28% 10. Frustrations: 0% 14. Instructions: 0%
Presence of blind spots 22
Access to exits 9 Being noticed/unnoticed 72 Quality of customer Presence of fitting
Emergency exits 4 Number of customers in store 13 service 0 room limit signs 0
Number of exits 6 Store layout 39 "Ask for assistance"
Presence of garden areas 9 Crowds 17 signs 0
Store size 19
Item location 1
total 28 total 184 total 0 total 0
3. Exit Screening: 10% 8. Place Managers: 7 /% 11. Emotions: .5% 15. Conscience: 0%
Presence of EAS tags/sensors 32 Attentiveness of employees 19 Antiestablishment "Shoplifting is
Presence of EAS gates at door 14 Quantity of employees 13 sentiment 2 stealing" signs 0
Store greeter at door 7 Employees (general) 10
Security guard at door 9
total 62 total 42 total 2 total 0
4. Offender Deflection: 1%
9. Formal Surveillance: 13%
12. Imitation: 0%
Security (general) 25
Police presence at store 5 Attentiveness of security 8 Level of maintenance 0
Uniformed security staff 24 Presence of previous 0
Undercover store detectives 24 crimes
total 5 total 81 total 0
2. Exit Access Four percent of shoplifter statements about physical cues
contributing to a perception of shoplifting risk or opportunity fell into this category. Its
subcategories (and number of statements they contain) include:
* Access to exits (obstructed access perceived as risk or easy, clear exit access
perceived as opportunity): 9 statements
* Emergency exits (control of exits perceived as risk; uncontrolled exits perceived as
opportunity): 4 statements
* Number of exits (multiple exits perceived as opportunity): 6 statements
* Garden areas (presence of perceived as opportunity): 9 statements
3. Exit Screening Ten percent of shoplifter statements about physical cues
contributing to a perception of shoplifting risk or opportunity fell into this category. Its
subcategories (and number of statements they contain) include:
* EAS tags, sensors (presence of perceived as shoplifting risk, absence perceived as
opportunity): 32 statements
* EAS gates (presence of perceived as shoplifting risk, absence perceived as
opportunity): 14 statements
* Store "greeter" positioned at entry/exit point (presence of perceived as shoplifting
deterrent): 7 statements
* Security personnel positioned at entry/exit point (presence of perceived as
shoplifting deterrent): 9 statements
4. Offender Deflection One percent of shoplifter statements about physical cues
contributing to a perception of shoplifting risk or opportunity fell into this category. Its
subcategory (and number of statements they contain) include:
* Police presence at store (presence of perceived as shoplifting deterrent): 5
5. Extended Guardianship Levels 19.5 percent of shoplifter statements about
physical cues contributing to a perception of shoplifting risk or opportunity fell into this
category. Its subcategories (and number of statements they contain) include:
* Presence of CCTV (presence of perceived as risk, or lack thereof (i.e., "blind
spots") perceived as opportunity): 80 statements
* Quantity of CCTV cameras (high number perceived as risk or low number
perceived as opportunity): 19 statements
* Monitoring of CCTV (perception of well-monitored systems as deterrent or
perception of poorly-monitored systems as opportunity): 16 statements
* Quality of CCTV (high-tech system perceived as deterrent): 10 statements
6. Natural Surveillance 28 percent of shoplifter statements about physical cues
contributing to a perception of shoplifting risk or opportunity fell into this category. Its
subcategories (and number of statements they contain) include:
* "Blind spots" (hidden, unmonitored areas of the store perceived as shoplifting
opportunity): 22 statements
* Being seen (perception of being seen perceived as deterrent, or perception of going
undetected perceived as opportunity): 72 statements
* Number of customers (high number perceived as deterrent, low number perceived
as opportunity): 13 statements
* Store layout (possibility of being seen perceived as deterrent, or ability to scan
store perceived as opportunity): 39 statements
* Crowds (confusion due to crowds perceived as opportunity): 17 statements
* Store size (large store with high-tech security perceived as risk, store too large for
security to monitor perceived as opportunity): 19 statements
* Lighting (dimly-lit store perceived as opportunity): 1 statement
* Item location (CRAVED item positioned in unmonitored part of store perceived as
opportunity): 1 statement
7. Place Managers Slightly more than six percent of shoplifter statements about
physical cues contributing to a perception of shoplifting risk or opportunity fell into this
category. Its subcategories (and number of statements they contain) include:
* Employees in general (any type of employee presence perceived as shoplifting
risk): 10 statements
* Attentiveness of employees (conscientious employees perceived as risk, apathetic
employees perceived as opportunity): 19 statements
* Quantity of employees (high number perceived as risk, low number perceived as
opportunity): 13 statements
8. Formal Surveillance 12.5 percent of shoplifter statements about physical cues
contributing to a perception of shoplifting risk or opportunity fell into this category. Its
subcategories (and number of statements they contain) include:
* Security in general (security presence perceived as shoplifting deterrent, lack
thereof perceived as opportunity): 25 statements
* Attentiveness of security (apathetic security perceived as opportunity): 8 statements
* Uniformed security guards (presence of perceived as deterrent): 24 statements
* Undercover store detectives (presence of perceived as deterrent): 24 statements
9. Target Visibility Two percent of shoplifter statements about physical cues
contributing to a perception of shoplifting risk or opportunity fell into this category. Its
subcategory (and number of statements they contain) include:
* Visibility of CRAVED items (highly visible CRAVED items perceived as
opportunity): 10 statements
10. Frustrations This category included poor customer service, long waiting
lines, and minimal checkout areas as possible motivators for theft. However, the content
analysis did not identify any offender statements referring to this category.
11. Emotions Half of a percent of shoplifter statements about physical cues
contributing to a perception of shoplifting risk or opportunity fell into this category. Its
subcategory (and number of statements it contains) include:
* Antiestablishment sentiments (lack of moral consequences in stealing from big
corporations perceived as opportunity, guilt involved in stealing from small "mom-
and-pop" store perceived as deterrent ): 2 statements
12. Imitation This category referred to signs of past crimes or low-maintenance
(which can contribute to a perception of low guardianship or monitoring) as a possible
opportunity for theft imitation, while signs of a well-maintained interior (which imply
higher guardianship and monitoring) as a possible risk, thereby discouraging imitation.
However, the content analysis did not identify any offender statements referring to this
13. Rules Two percent of shoplifter statements about physical cues contributing
to a perception of shoplifting risk or opportunity fell into this category. Its subcategory
(and number of statements it contains) included:
S Signage (presence of clear signage indicating shoplifter prosecution policy
perceived as deterrent): 11 statements
14. Instructions This category referred to the posting of clear instructions (such
as return, fitting room, or check-writing policies) as cues that may increase offender
perceptions of risk. However, the content analysis did not identify any offender
statements referring this category.
15. Conscience This category referred to the posting of conscience-raising
signage (like "shoplifting is stealing") as a cue that may deter potential offenders.
However, the content analysis did not identify any offender statements referring to this
While the content analysis findings illustrate the number of statements in each
category of the Physical Cues in the Retail Interior matrix, they do not communicate the
full depth of an offender's decision-making process. A second method of analysis,
narrative analysis, complements the content analysis by lending context, tone, and
emotion to the study's findings. Below, the results of the content analysis are explained in
greater detail, and with the added dimension of offender narratives. These narratives
serve several purposes: clarifying the connection between offender perceptions and
interior design characteristics; conveying the complex, personal nature of the offender's
decision-making process; and underscoring how the opportunity theories laid out by
rational choice theory, the theft triangle, and situational crime prevention manifest
themselves in this process.
1. Hardened Targets The study's content analysis identified the accessibility or
inaccessibility of shoplifting "targets" (usually CRAVED items) as one of the four top-
scoring categories, with 14 percent of offender statements. Overall, the narrative analysis
found offenders perceive the accessibility/inaccessibility of shoplifting targets as a
simple, black-and-white situation: an accessible target is perceived as a shoplifting
opportunity while an inaccessible target is perceived as a deterrent. As Hayes (1997)
describes, retail crime prevention exists on varying tiers, or "zones of influence": the
community level, the exterior of the store, the interior of the store, and the "asset point,"
or area where the item is displayed. This asset point can be further refined to refer to the
item's position on/in store fixtures (behind counters or in cases), and position on/in
displays (on hooks, locked vs. unlocked). Over 60 offender statements referred to
item/display accessibility (or inaccessibility) as influential to their perception of
shoplifting risk or opportunity. Some statements referred to the "asset level", as the
excerpt below explains:
It depends on how [the store] has [CRAVED items] set up. If they just have them on
racks, you can take the whole box. Just slide them off "Paul"
Other offender comments about item accessibility referred to item placement within the
store's layout. Offenders perceived certain locations in the store to be more conducive to
shoplifting than others. The offender below presents the decision to shoplift as a logical
equation, in which item location is key:
It's not rocket science. [A CRAVED items has] a high resale value, it's easy to
take, it's in apart of the store, they're usually in apart of the store, you know you
go into Walgreen's or v,,ihilig like that and they're in the back of the store, it's
easy. It's easy to work. "Mike"
This offender discusses item location more specifically:
I mean, the thing about the [items I take] is they 're also very accessible. You know
what I mean? It's not like they put them behind the counter. And I always thought
to myself they should probably, like keep them back there. I mean people are
going to buy them 1w heather they're behind the counter or ou0 n ith the rest of the
stuff It'sjust easy access. You walk up to, you know [the product], and just take a
quick look around and pull a bunch and stick them right in your pocket.
Twenty offender statements in the content analysis referred to physical cues that
communicated "hardening," or inaccessibility, as a perceived shoplifting risk. As the
excerpts below suggest, offenders perceive items protected by glass cases, stored behind
counters, or attached to displays as a real deterrent, sometimes impossible to steal:
The only time [shoplifting] is really difficult is when you can't get [items] because
they put them behind the glass and you have to ask someone to come get it. Or
sometimes they have them behind counters or stuff like that... the only way to
stop [shoplifting] is to keep them behind glass or behind the counter.
Sometimes you go into a place and you just don't have the accessibility to some of
the products you want because they're behind the counters or locked up, you know
what I mean. That's a big thing. I mean, at that point you walk out and go
someplace else. Deterrents work. They do. "Ian"
If [CRA VED merchandise] is behind a place like the register, I know it's tough to
put everybody 's products behind a register, or you know, behind a key like they do
11 ith cigarettes ... The bottom line, it's the location. Because if it's easy to get
they 're going to take it. "Cowboy"
As these narratives illustrate, merchandising and product placement can communicate a
clear perception of shoplifting risk if planned correctly.
2. Exit Access Four percent of offender statements about perceived risk and
opportunity cues referred to the idea of exit access. Most offender statements in this
category (9 statements) cited uncontrolled exit access (like a clear, unobstructed path to
an exit) as a perceived shoplifting opportunity. This finding suggests that cues like
unobstructed exit access, multiple exits, and garden center exits all contribute to an
offender's perception that he/she will "get away" with the shoplifting act, as the
narratives below attest:
[A shoplifter will] run through the emergency exit and the alarm will go off but it
takes about 15 minutes, not 15 minutes, about 5 minutes, for security to actually get
to that part of the building and by the time they get there we're already on the next
[Walgreens is easy to steal from] 'cause I don't know, usually, just, I don't know,
it's big and it'sjust easy to run out the door right there. .. we leave through the
aisle, actually it's the cosmetics, so it's like no walking by the [checkout] counter.
One of the subcategories with the highest scores in this category (9 statements) was
the presence of a garden area. Many large mass-merchant chains include garden areas for
the sale of plants and garden accessories. These areas are fenced-in, and connected to (but
outside of) the store interior. As such, they provide an alternate form of exit access. If the
ceilings of these areas are not fenced as well, they also provide an easy way for offenders
to shoplift. The offender simply brings stolen good to the garden area, tosses them over
the fence, and exits the store. He/she retrieves the stolen items afterward:
You get outside and there 's afenced-in garden where there 's no top of the fence.
Just it ,i the bag [of stolen items] over the fence. "Joe"
Garden center because they always have a fence and that fenced area you could
always find a nice gap-sized hole ... you try to find a spot where nobody 's paying
attention and you get yourself little clippers and clip clip and make yourself a hole
through the fence and have friend on the other side ... say hey, man go up to the
garden center. There's a bag out there, go pick it up. "Gary"
As the following offender explains, using the garden center as a means to shoplift can
allow evasion of other LP technologies, like EAS:
I would just leave [products i/ ith advanced EAS tags attached] alone because it's
going to be a real big hassle. Unless like I said you 're in a store that is very
opportunistic to diu e'1i it over the fence, like you got a good store where you can fill
up a bag and ithr i,m it over the fence and go back and get it. "Philip"
3. Exit Screening Ten percent of shoplifter comments referred to the screening
of exits (EAS systems, store "greeters," or receipt-checkers at the door perceived as risk,
or a lack of these cues perceived as opportunity). As the excerpt below conveys, some
offenders perceive certain exit-screening techniques as more risky than others:
I think the difference between [stores that are easy versus hard to stealfrom] is the
electric sensors and cameras; where they're positioned. Kind of like in the public
library where they have these magnetic walls and stuff instead ofjust having a
greeter to check your receipt. "Julian"
However, the fact that only 10 percent of the total amount of offender statements referred
to exit screening cues as contributors to perceptions of risk or opportunity suggests that
other cues in the matrix are more influential to offenders' decision-making. This finding
might imply that shoplifters find exit screening devices like EAS easy to circumvent or
evade. It might also imply that retailers should focus their efforts in areas other than exit
4. Offender Deflection Offender deflection refers to measures that actually keep
offenders from coming into the store. One method retailers use is positioning a police
presence outside the store. However, this is not a common practice, which may explain,
in part, why only one percent of offender statements referred to offender deflection as
influential to the perception of risk or opportunity in the retail store.
5. Extended Guardianship The category of extended guardianship scored
second-highest in terms of frequency, with 19.5 percent of shoplifter statements. In the
retail context, the idea of "extended guardianship" involves the use of CCTV, which
allows retailers and LP staff to "extend" their guardianship over parts of the store that
they cannot see firsthand. The presence or absence of CCTV makes a difference in terms
of offenders' perceptions of risk or opportunity. Indeed, the presence of CCTV was the
single most frequently-cited physical cue in the study, with 80 offender statements
referring to it as a risk (if present) or an opportunity (if absent). These findings suggest
that any CCTV use, be it poor quality, scant coverage, or poorly-monitored, helps
contribute to an offender's sense of risk and sanction. The following narrative excerpts
underscore this perception:
I mean, the camera's gonna get you. It'sjust a matter if security is watching or
who's watching. That's what it comes down to is if someone sees ya. Cameras are
always on. It'sjust ifyou've been seen or not. "Donny"
I think the difference between [stores that are easy to steal from versus those that
are difficult] is the electric sensors and the cameras; where they 're positioned ...
I mean, some places are harder, some places are easier. "Greg"
You know, you're thinking. the camera's seeing me take off more than one, and it's
definitely watching. So that's definitely, that right there, that will work [to deter
In some instances, offenders perceived the quality of the CCTV system as influential to
their decision to steal, expressing a perception that high-tech video tracking devices could
be hidden from sight or programmed to recognize faces:
I believe they also have little tiny cameras like on the shelves, I ain't too sure, but I
always look out for those. "Nolan"
I don't look at [CCTV monitors located above store entrances] because they have
cameras on those so they can catch a picture of your face. "Joey"
Correspondingly, offenders cited poor-quality CCTV systems (lack of cameras, or
unmonitored, poorly positioned cameras) as a perceived opportunity for shoplifting. Most
of these statements had to do with a lack of CCTV coverage, and the resulting "blind
A blind spot ... like where the cameras can't see you ... [the local Wal-Mart]
has a blind spot actually in the filing cabinets. They also have a blind spot in their
hunting goods ... I can see a blind spot and there's rarely anybody walking
through there, and you can't detect any cameras. There might be a little tiny one
somewhere .... Like, it's not full coverage of the store. "Cowboy"
In some of these statements, offenders perceived shoplifting opportunity due to CCTV
systems with apparently incomplete store coverage:
Like I say, everyone knows they aren't much up on the security camera thing. Just
the way the store is set up, there'splenty of areas to go, you know, and slip
\I ,I1ethlinug in your pocket. "Dan"
Wal-Mart was one of the easiest [stores to steal from] before they made the new
store, which is like full of cameras. But they do have some aisles where you can
pick ,uwieting up from an aisle that does have a camera, walk around like you're
looking for \,,uwieting else, go to the aisle that doesn't have a camera, and just,
like, take it out of the pack, slip it in your pocket, and walk around some more.
.So,,thlinfg like that. "Joe"
Other offenders cited the difficulty for a very large store to thoroughly cover the space
with CCTV as a shoplifting opportunity, again linking the size of the store to its security
A large store is easier to steal from because]just the difference, the space, the
amount of cameras there ... a bigger, open area compared to a smaller enclosed
space ii ith more cameras. Circuit City is not huge like Wal-Mart, and they've got a
lot of cameras. Wal-Mart doesn't have a lot of cameras. Target doesn't have as
many cameras as they should either ... Those big stores are easy to steal from.
Still other offenders described a perception that stores simply don't monitor their CCTV
systems well enough for them to be a real deterrent:
A lot of companies just don 'tput a lot of effort into security cameras and thing\ of
that nature. "Arlene"
It's confusing. It'sjust a big ball of confusion, you know? It's like, let's say you 're
trying to be god, you're trying to look all over the world, but you don't have the
same power he does. Ifyou 're trying to watch everybody at the same time you'd
just be lost. So that's exactly what they got -somebody in the security room just
lost as hell. "Nolan"
As a method for extending guardianship, CCTV can influence crime levels in
different ways according to the level and extent of use (Spriggs and Gill, 2006).
According to the statements collected in this study, offender perceptions are frequently
altered by the presence of CCTV. Collectively, these narrative excerpts and content
analysis findings indicate the offenders in this study perceive CCTV as a real deterrent.
Retailers and retail designers, therefore, should pay particular attention to the use, set-up,
and quality of CCTV when planning the retail store, as the resulting system will likely
have an impact on how offenders gauge shoplifting risk and opportunity.
6. Natural Surveillance As a CPTED principle, the goal of natural surveillance
is to give legitimate users and casual observers the ability to monitor a space, therefore
increasing an offender's perception of vulnerability or risk (Crowe, 2000). Natural
surveillance is not a result of store employees. It is provided by customers and other
legitimate users of the retail space (like vendors, browsers, or passersby). The ability of
these users to scan the space contributes to "natural" surveillance; that is, surveillance
resulting from the "natural" design of the store, and the activity within it (Atlas, 2001).
In order to avoid risk of apprehension, shoplifters attempt to avoid being seen by these
Of course, the ability to assess whether or not anyone is looking is predicated on
the built environment, and whether or not it is constructed to support this kind of
surveillance (again, the paradox of surveillance). A store designed to facilitate sight and
surveillance can assist both retail staff and shoplifters, allowing them both to visually
canvas the space (offenders for threats and opportunities, employees for theft activity).
This duality was reflected in the amount of offender statements in this category: many
offenders perceived natural surveillance as a risk, while others perceived it as an
opportunity. Some recognized that natural surveillance, as it exists in the built
environment: is both a risk and an opportunity:
I'm lookingfor cameras. I'm lookingfor the amount of employees. I'm lookingfor
people that are looking at me. "Paul"
Of the 639 statements about cues perceived as shoplifting opportunities or risks, a
majority of these (28 percent) fell into the category of natural surveillance. Because this
category contains so many offender statements, its various subcategories will be
6.1 Blind Spots A "blind spot" is a hidden area in the store free from cameras,
employee surveillance, or natural surveillance. The study identified 22 offender
statements referring to "blind spots" as an opportunity for shoplifting. This further
corroborates Hayes' (1998) finding that offenders often take CRAVED items from high-
visibility zones to "blind spots" in order to hide them on their person, in clothing, or in
bags. This finding also supports the theft triangle's assertion that offenders measure the
risk of being caught before stealing. As the narratives below imply, the presence of blind
spots gives offenders the perception that they can shoplift covertly, and thus avoid
apprehension. Many shoplifters in this study expounded on the usefulness of blind spots,
especially in terms of picking up a CRAVED product from one area and actually
concealing it in another:
Just the way the store is set up, there 's plenty of areas to, you know, go and slip
%iuethilng into your pocket... a lot of hiding spots. And it's kind of dark in there.
Ifyou have a big shopping cart maybe you 1thrl some thing\ into it and allyou
have to do is take one and ithn ,i it into your cart and go to a different section and
do what you want i/th it. "Joe"
I know a lot ofpeople that will sit there and work on [products in theft-deterrent
packages], you know what I'm ,,ing-. they'II work on them in an aisle.
I'll find, like, the most unlikely place a customer's going to go, like the most boring
items in the store, I'll go into that aisle and try to get into the package as fast as I
can ... then I just keep the p, ,,ld/ ii i th me ... and just walk out the normal exit.
As these narratives suggest, even one blind spot in a store can provide a shoplifting
opportunity. Being in a "blind spot" surrounded by high sight-obstructing shelves can
also contribute to an offender's sense of going unnoticed, as the following narrative
Video stores are especially easy. They're small. There's usually only one or two
people working them. They've got these big high shelves where they can't see you.
6.2 Being Seen Offenders frequently made statements about being seen as
influential to their perception of shoplifting risk or opportunity. This made "being seen"
one of the most-cited subcategories in the content analysis, with a total of 72 statements.
According to the theft triangle theory, one of the three factors offenders assess before
acting on a crime is the perceived risk of being caught. Logically, an offender's
perception of being seen is a determinant of this risk assessment. It therefore follows that
shoplifters would frequently cite "no one looking" as an opportunity for theft, and
conversely, "being seen" as a risk. The following narrative excerpts explain how the
ability to scan a retail interior is important to a shoplifter, and helps shape the decision to
steal, while the perception of "being watched" is a major deterrent:
If somebody 's watching -if somebody's watching I'll go over and buy my popcorn
or whatever and leave. "James"
I'd be kind of nervous about [large clothing retail chains]. There'sjust voi nwtilig
about them. I've taken a couple shirts from, I think it was Dillard's, and I didn 't get
caught. But I don't go now. I was just really uncomfortable about the whole thing.
If someone 's not watching you, you can come by and take one of them gray baskets
andput 30 DVDs in it andput that inside your cart and have another gray basket
and fill it up i i/h razors and everything and a lot of times you just push that thing
right out the door and a lot of times no one sees nothing that you done. "Dan"
A thief is usually paying more attention to what's around him you know, who's
looking, if there's a camera. You know he's got to have like ten eyes just to do what
he 's got to do. -"Cowboy"
The worry and paranoia these statements imply is as much a goal of natural surveillance
as actual apprehension, as the offender's perception and fear of being seen is often as
effective a deterrent as actually being seen.
6.3 Number of Customers in Store Thirteen offender comments cited a high
number of customers in the store as influential to the decision to steal. This finding
supports the idea of natural surveillance in its suggestion that some offenders are wary of
being spotted by legitimate shoppers in the store. Offender statements referred to the
presence of customers in the store as both an opportunity for, and a deterrent to
shoplifting. Some shoplifters cited a very busy store packed with customers as an
effective shoplifting camouflage, while others perceived the presence of customers as a
threat because of their ability to see (and potentially respond to) the shoplifting act:
I never ever, like, let a customerfollow me and see my concealment tactic. The
customer will never see me [shoplift]. AndI have to make sure I can't see the
customer. I can't see no cameras. Nothing can see me ... Igot caught one day
because of a hero customer. Took me to the ground. -"Joey"
I don't think there's a time when I'm not concerned about [being seen by
customers] ... You know it's kind of like you 'll see them looking at you or like
looking or talking, like telling their friends, 'Look that guy's taking wi,/ethiing'. Or
if someone's kind of keeping an eye on you. -"Mexico"
Sometimes youjust take a chance that you 're going to run into a Good Samaritan
that's going to say \,vinhiiig Because ifyou 're in between two or three people
shopping for this stuff and you grab a handful of stuff adjust put it n your cart,
sometimes they notice that, and they look at you like, 'What's this kid doing?
What's this guy doing?' and sometimes they don't, so that's \,iethinig to take a
chance on. "Joey"
As these excerpts illustrate, some offenders seem embarrassed by the idea of a customer
seeing them ("you'll see them looking at you, like looking or talking, like telling their
friends"), while others fear more drastic ramifications ("I got caught one day because of a
hero customer. Took me to the ground.") In either case, many offenders perceived the
ability for customers and other legitimate users to "naturally" monitor and survey a space
as a risk, because being seen increases the level of risk associated with the shoplifting act.
6.4 Store Layout Several offenders said they perceived "big" stores as
shoplifting opportunities. These offenders referred to a perception that it is too difficult
for employees or security to monitor the whole store at once:
The weak link in [big-box chain] stores is that they 're very big, so oftentimes the
area you want to target is completely barren because everyone is concentrated on
maybe another section of the store. "Phillip"
However, other offenders linked the physical size of the store with a certain perceived
level of security. Some shoplifters cited a large corporation, and large store, as indicative
of a comprehensive security program:
The problem i/th Target and Wal-Mart is that they're very big stores and they're
harder [to steal from]. I mean you're an easier target. I mean, they have loss
prevention guys in there .. they have good security. "Julian"
Seven shoplifter statements about crime opportunity were directly related to store size,
design, and layout. Stores were cited as simply having an "easy" layout, which could
allude to any number of design-based qualities, such as poor surveillance, poor product
positioning, or lack of CCTV coverage:
K-Mart [is easy to steal from]. I haven't taken from K-Mart in a while, but I think
from what I've seen just being in there, you know, just normal shopping, it looks
like it's pretty easy to take from. "Donny"
Offenders also said they perceived certain store layouts as conducive to shoplifting:
... it depends on the layout. I mean, there's situations where I could just I could
load up 50 and just walk out the front door. "Dan"
The following offender stated a belief that his location within the store determined
whether or not he was actually shoplifting:
I understand they have to, they cannot arrest you in the heart of the store. Like if
you're in the middle of the store they have to have probable cause ... I really
doubt that they're going to come to you in the store and arrest you right there in
the heart of the store ... they 'll probably pick you up at the exit, most likely.
Although not always specific, these narratives underscore the content analysis' finding
that design and layout are influential to the shoplifting offender's decision-making
6.5 Crowds Seventeen statements about shoplifting opportunity suggested that
shoplifters perceive a crowded, chaotic store as an easy one from which to steal. This
finding indicates some offenders perceive a busy store as a sort of camouflage, ensuring
that employees are be too busy helping customers to monitor theft activity.
And like I said on the weekends if there's a lot ofpeople it's a lot easier to get in
and out. "Mike"
Correspondingly, some offenders cited a lack of activity in the store as a shoplifting
deterrent, since the perceived absence of people and commotion leaves the shoplifter
feeling exposed and observed. Consider the following offender's explanation of a
desolate versus busy store. For him, an empty store spells vulnerability, while a busy
store provides opportunity:
If it's a weekend it's more packed. Ifyou think security's a little tougher then, it's
not. They might have afew more spotters walking around, but you can go in there a
little better .... During the weekdays, ifyou walk in the store and it's pretty much
desolate, there 's not many people in there, you tend to come back later in the
afternoon when there 's more people in there ... sometimes they get so packed,
everyone's working here and they're working there ... it's easy to pick up
7. Place Managers Anecdotally, retailers consider place managers (employees)
to be one of the most effective forms of shoplifting deterrence (Hayes and Blackwood,
2006c). However, only 6.5 percent of shoplifter statements referred to place managers
specifically. The narrative analysis helps in explaining these findings. Some offenders in
this sample did not perceive employees as a serious risk:
Ifyou look around and it's younger [employees], they don't care. I'll be sneaky
about it but I don't think they care. "Gary"
[I'd go to a certain store because] I'd know that the employees are kind of lax, or
there's not many of them .. they hire like, young, skater type teens and hey really
don't care. They don't give a crap. "Nolan"
Those guys [employees] are just in La-La land half the time ... generally,
employees are pretty lax. "Joe"
Others viewed employees as a deterrent, and expressed fear of being spotted or
apprehended by an employee:
If I actually see [an employee] looking over, then I'll leave .. if I saw him kind of
scoping out the area where I was in I'd just kind of abort everything and get it
some other time. "James"
Thirteen shoplifter statements referred specifically to the number of employees in a store,
correlating a high number of employees to a higher risk level:
If there's more employees than customers I'll definitely leave a store in a
heartbeat. That's how circuit city is. They have a million employees.
It's been hard to stealfrom Target, you know ... there's so many employees there
you know what I'm ,ying. and there's more employees -you know like sometimes
you look and ifyou pay attention and start counting the ratio between employees
and customers you'd be like, how do they make their money?
This study's findings indicate a wide range of offender perceptions of employees,
making their presence/awareness neither a real deterrent nor their absence/apathy a real
opportunity. Indeed, the deterrence effect of employees is more likely to be based on
hiring practices, management policies, and reward systems than on number of employees
8. Formal Surveillance The study's content analysis found 12.5 percent of
offender statements fell into the category of formal surveillance. Different from natural
surveillance, formal surveillance includes surveillance performed by security staff, store
detectives, and LP staff. These employees can be uniformed or undercover. Over 50
offender statements cited the perceived presence and high quality of security personnel
(either uniformed or undercover) as a shoplifting deterrent, and the absence/low quality
of such personnel as an opportunity. This suggests offenders assess a store's apparent
level of security staffing and attentiveness before deciding to steal, an assessment that
relies upon a spatial layout that promotes surveillance. In the quote below, one offender
illustrates how the spatial layout of the store assists in his ability to assess security threats
(linking back to the "duality of surveillance" concept discussed previously in this
A lot of [undercover security staff] will walkpast you and they 'll do %,iethii/g as
dumb as to make eye contact i iih you ... and you 'll see them go around the
corner, and off in the distance where they can still see you but they 're not on top of
you. And you 'll notice that there's nothing in their cart ... sometimes they're just
looking and you know who they are. So you're watching them. And you go up to
somewhere else and go into that aisle and just wait afew seconds and shop and
look around real nonchalantly, and there he is again. And so you know right then
it's off; he's onto you. "Mike"
This narrative underscores the influence design has over other, seemingly non-design-
related loss prevention strategies. In the quote below, the offender explains how the mere
sight of a uniformed security officer can be a deterrent:
A uniform is a good deterrent. Like ifI was walking in a store and have stolen stuff
and I come back to an exit and ands I see like 4 uniform guys that weren 't there
before, I'll dump the stuff instantly, 'cause all I know they could be therefore me,
you know? "Pat"
Again, the offender perceives this security strategy (formal surveillance) as the
interaction of space ("I come back to an exit"), surveillance ("I see like four") and
security ("uniform guys"). Some ways in which retail deign can improve the
effectiveness of formal surveillance are included in Chapter 5.
9. Target Visibility Reducing the visibility of CRAVED items is one strategy for
minimizing shoplifting. Some retailers replace CRAVED products with signs on shelves.
The signs redirect shoppers to a counter where an employee retrieves the item. Any
examples of offenders perceiving this practice as a deterrent were included in the
hardened targets category. However, 10 offender statements referred to highly visible
CRAVED items as a perceived opportunity for shoplifting. The design implications of
this finding are similar to those for "easily accessible targets" and are discussed in
10. Emotions A few offender statements (.5 percent) cited the perception of a
large corporation unaffected by loss as a reason to shoplift. (This can also be viewed as
an opportunity if it's moral hesitation preventing an offender from acting.) A few other
statements cited the perception of a small, family-run type of atmosphere as a moral
deterrent to shoplifting:
I don't [stealfromflea markets] because those are owned by likefamily businesses
and I feel really bad... you know, 'cause they don't have a million-dollar
insurance policy or anything. I don't even know if that's true, but yeah, it makes me
feel better. "Julian"
In either case, this study's results show emotions (whether provoked or reduced) did not
appear to influence many offenders' perceptions of crime risk or opportunity in the retail
13. Rules The study identified 11 shoplifter statements pertaining to anti-
shoplifting signage (like "Shoplifters will Be Prosecuted") as influential to the decision to
steal. However, most of these statements came from just one of the 20 offenders in the
sample. Below is an example of that offender's perception of anti-shoplifting signage:
Major stores like Wal-mart, Sears, they 're starting to get tougher, getting better at
cracking down. I mean, they even have signs: do not try and steal ,,iinehiiig and
come b,/Ik IA ii h it because we're going to catch you; \, inlhiiig like that. That kind
of persuades you not to try it. Signs and stuff like that. Visual types of thiig I
think that's the best way. "Joe"
Although few offenders cited signage as a deterrent cue, the fact that even one did should
be taken into consideration when designing retail interiors. Signage is a relatively
inexpensive and easy strategy to implement. If it deters even one potential offender it
could be worthwhile.
Categories with No Scores
Of the 15 categories in the matrix of Physical Cues in the Retail Interior, the
content analysis identified four with no scores at all. These were: Frustrations (reduced
vs. provoked), Imitation (discouraged vs. promoted), Instructions (unclear vs. posted),
and Conscience (ignored vs. alerted). None of the offender statements in this study
identified cues in these categories as influential to their perception of shoplifting risk or
opportunity. The implication of this finding is simple: retail designers and retailers should
focus their efforts not on these categories but rather on the categories that shoplifters
overwhelmingly cited as influential to their perceptions: Natural Surveillance,
Guardianship, Formal Surveillance, and Target Accessibility. Some suggestions on how
interior designers can enhance the effectiveness of the loss prevention techniques in these
categories follows in Chapter 5.
Overall, the content analysis findings revealed several patterns in the types of
physical cues offenders cited as influential to their perception of shoplifting risk or
opportunity in the retail interior. In terms of the matrix' four overarching category
headings (perceived effort, perceived risk, perceived provocation, and perceived
excuses), 66.5 percent of offender statements referred to perceived risk, and 29 percent
referred to perceived effort. A negligible amount referred to the other two category
headings of perceived provocation and excuses (two and a half and two percent,
respectively). The analysis placed 639 shoplifter statements into nine of the 15 categories
in the Physical Cues in the Retail Interior matrix. Although all 15 of matrix categories
contain defensive design strategies for the retail interior, the content analysis revealed
that over 70 percent of offender statements fell into just four categories: Hardened
Targets, Natural Surveillance, Extended Guardianship, and Formal Surveillance. This
finding suggests that offenders perceive the physical cues in these four categories most
influential to their assessment of shoplifting risk or opportunity.
The narrative excerpts reiterated the findings of the content analysis: that is, while a
variety of physical cues in the retail interior influence offender perceptions of risk and
opportunity, those that influence offenders most often are related to levels of risk or
opportunity inherent to the shoplifting act. Indeed, the tonal and contextual implications
of the narrative analyses emphasized the content analysis' finding that over half (66.5
percent) of offender statements refer to perceptions of risk (which in turn affects the
decision to steal). The idea that situational, environmental cues combine to affect an
offender's perception of shoplifting ease or difficulty also lends support to the theories of
rational choice, the theft triangle, and situational crime prevention.
DISCUSSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
This study's content and narrative analysis of 20 semi-structured interviews with
known shoplifting offenders revealed the specific physical cues shoplifters cite as
influential to perceptions of crime risk or opportunity in the retail interior. The content
analysis revealed some patterns in the types of cues that influence offender perceptions
most often, and the narrative analysis further emphasized these patterns. While these
findings are significant in themselves, they also present a range of implications for retail
design as well as opportunities for future research.
One of the study's most significant findings is that over 95 percent of offender
statements were categorized into two of the four matrix category headings: Perceived
Effort and Perceived Risk. Within these two headings, the matrix categories of Hardened
Targets, Extended Guardianship, Natural Surveillance, and Formal Surveillance
contained the highest numbers of offender statements. Considered in light of rational
choice theory and the theft triangle, these findings are unsurprising. Rational choice
theory asserts that potential shoplifting offenders weigh the possible risk of sanction and
apprehension against the possible reward of the theft in the time period leading up to their
decision to shoplift. This time period can range from a fraction of a second to a few
minutes (Clark & Felson, 1993). Therefore, this study's finding that cues pertaining to
targets, surveillance, and guardianship scored highest in terms of perceptions of risk or
opportunity supports rational choice theory. The excerpt below illustrates this connection:
First things first you want to know if they got what you want. The second factor is
the risk involvement. The risk involvement will be security times cameras times
employees times space times customers. Those are the five factors you're going to
have. Why? Because all of them conflict i ith each other to catch you. -"Matt"
Another finding worth discussing is the pattern of categories that contained no
offender statements at all. These four categories (Frustrations, Imitation, Instructions, and
Conscience) all exist under the category headings of Perceived Provocation and
Perceived Excuses. Together, these two category headings comprised just 4.5 percent of
the overall offender statements, suggesting that cues in the retail interior that
communicate shoplifting provocations or excuses do not often factor into an offender's
decision to steal. Again, this finding supports rational choice and the theft triangle, since
these categories bear the least relevance to risk and/or opportunity.
In terms of rationality, the study's findings suggest that, in the retail interior,
offenders are influenced most often by physical cues that communicate risk of detection
(and consequently, apprehension and sanction). This finding supports that of Carroll and
Weaver (1986) whose process-tracing study found that, once inside the store, shoplifters
acted in a proactive, rational manner, "actively scanning the store for information on
risks and opportunities before considering items for shoplifting" (p. 32). However, the
current study goes one step farther in identifying some of the specific cues that comprise
this information, and inform the offender's perception of risk or opportunity.
Through a combined content and narrative analysis of offender interviews, this
study was able to isolate specific categories of physical cues in the retail environment that
influence offender perceptions of risk, and decisions to shoplift. The strategies in these
categories, while untested, nevertheless present an array of areas in which design-based
solutions may minimize shoplifting incidents. The four categories this study identified as
most influential to offenders' perceptions of shoplifting risk and/or opportunity are:
* Natural Surveillance
* Extended guardianship
* Formal Surveillance
* Hardened Targets
While the identification of these specific cues is helpful, retail designers should
understand that incorporating design into the retail environment cannot be reduced to
such a tidy list. Building a secure retail environment is a holistic process. It begins at the
most preliminary stages of programming and schematic design, and should be a priority
throughout installation. Today's retail designers have an advantage in that modern
drafting programs usually include a three-dimensional modeling component, which
allows for virtual "tours" of a space well before construction begins. Such programs can
allow for strategic and targeted security planning, as retailer sand designers can see and
address potential weak or insecure areas of the store well in advance. Even after
construction is complete, secure retail design should be considered an ongoing priority,
built into the store's maintenance and management procedures.
In essence, to be most effective, security (and, in part, security-focused retail
design) should be a priority just like merchandising or marketing: a goal that starts at the
top levels of the retail corporation, is consistently carried through every department, and
manifested in the everyday operations of store management. For an example consider
one of the four categories this study identified as influential to shoplifters' decision-
making formal surveillance. To make formal surveillance as effective as possible,
retailers would begin to address it at the outset of the conceptual and programming phase,
assigning certain square footages and strategic placements for security staff. The store's