With All the Anarchy, They’ve Decided to Take Action


Grocery chain Safeway, part of regional provisioner Albertsons, is testing a pilot anti-theft project. They’re rolling it out in Portland, Oregon, where shoplifting reached “epidemic crisis” levels. Thieves boost items in plain sight. It’s an alternative to locking everything behind Plexiglas but the customers aren’t sure what to think, yet.

Safeway security experiment

Scott Castleman is a “security expert” in the Portland area so a local news team went to see him about the new idea Safeway is trying out. He agrees that something needs to be done. And pronto.

In my career in loss prevention, I’ve never seen anything to the degree that we have today. The brazenness of the shoplifters. Going in, knowing that they won’t get caught, they don’t even try and conceal anything anymore.

Local Outlet KGW8 decided to visit the Safeway store at southwest 10th and Jefferson. They wanted to see the latest shrinkage prevention scheme in use.

The retailer added “a dedicated, secured area within the store for what appears to be the most ‘lifted‘ items. You have to pay there before you can ever get close to the exit doors.” Management is hoping it will give “security officers a better chance to stop the theft.

Safeway doesn’t want to clue the shoplifters in on the details so they’re “not talking about their strategy here,” or at their Pearl district sister store. Both are using the new “secure” areas.

The retailer did note, “like other local businesses, we are working on ways to curtail escalating theft to ensure the safety of our employees and foster a welcoming environment for our loyal customers.

Anarchy free for all

Since Portland is such a free for all of anarchy, thanks to defunded police and prosecutors who refuse to put anyone in jail, retailers like Safeway are forced to take the law into their own hands. Instead of giving each of their clerks a shotgun, they decided to try this for a while. Castleman will be watching with interest.

His “decades of experience in security and loss prevention” give him a nagging feeling. “He is not convinced this type of strategy will make much difference. Especially if staff and security are not allowed to stop and detain people, effectively making ‘citizen’s arrests,’ as Oregon law allows.

The real answer is professional law enforcement and prosecutors who prosecute. “I’m telling you, the more these people start getting felony convictions the more they’re going to stop shoplifting, because those involved in the criminal element talk to other people and they know who’s soft on crime and who is hard on crime.

This isn’t a problem in Texas or Florida. Safeway isn’t the only one getting hit hard.

Near the Jefferson Street Safeway is a Plaid Pantry, the station points out. “This convenience store is one of a half dozen with security concerns that could end up closing them.” They want to avoid that. “In the past year management has installed walk-up windows similar to what is found at banks. Customers are not allowed in the stores at night.

Everyone agrees the solution isn’t “optimal” but it helps. “It’s not efficient, it’s not good customer service. But it’s just the only way, in certain stores, that we can control that situation,” explains Plaid Pantry president and CEO Jonathan Polonsky. “We really preach hard about de-escalation so it’s pretty demoralizing when someone comes in with a bag, waves at the associate, says ‘hi‘, goes through the store, loads up their bag, walks out the door and says see you tomorrow, and they’re back the next day.


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