Whether chatting with a total stranger in an airplane, or having dinner with a new acquaintance, my job always seems to come up, and when it does, curiosity soon follows. Over the years, I have answered the same questions over and over, so I decided to write a post answering some of the more common questions that I'm asked about LP. If you are considering a career in Asset Protection (another name for Loss Prevention), or even mildly curious about the field, then continue reading, I think you will find the extra context useful.
Also if you want to learn more, take a look at The Store Detective Training Manual, a Practical Reference for Current and Aspiring Loss Prevention Officers. It's one of the best books on the subject that I'm aware of. Although I must admit my bias, as I was the one who wrote it.
Please note that my comments are based on general experience and are not meant as legal advice (or advice of any kind). Consult an attorney before making any specific decisions or setting your store’s policy.
What is Loss Prevention?
Loss Prevention refers to the protection of assets. By assets, we mean anything that has value in a retail store environment.
Examples of assets that Loss Prevention commonly helps to protect include:
How does Loss Prevention protect assets?
It varies a lot from company to company, and by role. Most Loss Prevention Departments protect company assets in the following ways:
Is there a difference between a Loss Prevention Officer and a Store Detective?
Titles may vary by company but generally the titles, Loss Prevention Officer, Store Detective, and Loss Prevention Specialist are used interchangeably, they basically mean the same thing or describe jobs that are similar in nature.
Are Store Detectives Security Officers?
Not exactly. Security Officers or Security Guards are often part of an LP team, but they are not Store Detectives. However, it is not uncommon for Security Officers to become interested in Loss Prevention and work towards becoming Store Detectives. Security Officers wear uniforms and are tasked with deterring theft or other undesirable activity. Conversely, LP Officers dress in plain clothes and their primary responsibility is to apprehend shoplifters.
Are Loss Prevention Officers Police Officers or have police powers?
No. Loss Prevention Officers are not Police Officers and rarely if ever hold police or peace officer status. I should mention however that some folks with an interest in law enforcement explore LP Opportunities and consider Asset Protection to be a good resume enhancer and preparation for a future career in law enforcement.
LP professionals, while not carrying a gun or enjoying the authority of a police officer, must routinely confront and detains individuals who commit thefts, in some cases as part of large organized theft rings. It is also not completely uncommon for Store Detectives to apprehend suspects who have engaged in other crimes or may have outstanding warrants. The good Store Detectives learn how to gain compliance through their demeanor and words, even without a weapon or the authority of a police officer.
These soft skills contribute significantly to the making of a successful LP professional, but also transfer well into police work. Through the years, I have come to know several police officers who started out in Loss Prevention and consider this experience as a stepping stone into their careers in law enforcement.
If a Store Detective is not a cop, how can he/she detain shoplifters?
Every person has the basic right to protect his/her property, although the manner in which this right is exercised varies from state to state. This means that a retail owner can take steps to stop theft impacting the business as long as reasonable means are employed. In specific circumstances dictated by law, this includes the use of force, such as physically restraining someone who stole.
A Store Detective operates as an extension of the owner's rights to protect his/her own business. For this reason, the LP Officer can legally detain someone suspected of stealing from that business while police is summoned, or until the person is appropriately identified and the merchandise is recovered. However there are strict requirements that must be met before there is enough probable cause to detain someone for shoplifting. If you want to learn more, look for a future post on The 6 Probable Cause Steps required before someone can be apprehended.
Once again, these are comments based on my general knowledge and experience and are not meant as legal advice. Consult an attorney before making specific decisions or setting your store’s policy.
What are common Tools and Strategies used by Store Detectives?
It depends on the specific job and the company. Store Detectives use cameras and conduct surveillances. Investigators monitoring employee theft may use binoculars and pinhole cameras (small cameras meant to go undetected).
On the other hand, LP Directors and Vice Presidents focus on the big picture, tending to department budgets, losses due to theft and how crime trends impact the business.
Below are a number of tools and strategies used specifically by Store Detectives. They include the ones mentioned above and a few more.
I want a career, not just a job, are there opportunities to advance?
Definitely yes. While many LP professionals begin their careers as Store Detectives, Loss Prevention Departments are often composed of many different folks with a variety of titles, responsibilities and salaries. I'm a good example of the ability to advance in LP but there are many who advanced much faster than I did while others stayed in similar roles for many years.
As anything else in life, much of it is up to you and how much effort you put into managing your knowledge, formal education and career. I started in LP as a Store Detective at a Supermarket Company and within a short time became involved with internal investigations (employee theft). I was eventually promoted to District LP Coordinator. Then I left the company and became a District LP Mgr for Home Depot. I learned a lot there and eventually accepted a position as a Regional LP Manager with Gamestop.
I won't bore you with every job since, but every move I've made has been a strategic next step in my career. Today, I'm a Director for a large health and beauty company and I'm still absolutely thrilled about what I do. I wake up every day and look forward to working. How many people can say that?
Common roles in Loss Prevention are listed below.
Store Detectives (usually an hourly position)
Loss Prevention Managers (generally a salaried position)
District or Regional Loss Prevention Managers (salaried position)
Zone, Divisional or Field Loss Prevention Directors (salaried position)
Loss Prevention Analysts and Investigators (hourly or salaried)
Corporate Loss Prevention Manager (salaried position)
Director of Loss Prevention (Senior-Leadership Salaried position)
Vice President of Loss Prevention (Executive Position)
I am thinking about becoming a Store Detective, but have no experience.
Is there a way to do it?
Getting started in Loss Prevention can feel overwhelming but there are ways to begin your career without prior experience. Focus on ways ways in which you can set yourself apart from other applicants. Keep in mind that even the most senior Loss Prevention Vice President with decades of experience started somewhere and obviously had no experience when he or she took the first step. Every career, whether in Security, Law Enforcement, Loss Prevention or any other, begins with someone showing an interest and taking steps to make his or her dreams happen.
When Loss Prevention Managers interview applicants for Store Detective positions, they obviously prefer individuals with some experience. But this does not mean that someone without experience will automatically be rejected. A candidate coming across as highly interested, passionate, trustworthy and able to do the job often has the opportunity to compete against others even without experience.
An applicant with no experience may choose to differentiate him or herself by investing in Loss Prevention Training. Being able to articulate your goals and your understanding of the job is very helpful, so finding a way to gain additional understanding is critical even if you have not done the job before. Even if you lack experience, being knowledgeable on the job tells hiring managers that you are serious about getting into Loss Prevention. Who wouldn’t want to hire the rookie with enough talent to be the next MVP?
There is more than one way to gain extra knowledge. One approach is to enroll in training seminars. Although this option can be a bit expensive, there is definitely good knowledge to be gained. If you are serious about Loss Prevention and can afford the course, that’s one way.
You can also look for formal LP Certifications. You can look up the Loss Prevention Foundation which has a number of LP Certifications and how to prepare. Look for a future post that will offer information about Loss Prevention Certifications which I'll link to this article once it's written.
One of the easiest and least expensive ways of preparing is to read voraciously. I can't stress enough the importance of reading to ensure success in everything you do, not just LP. Find any and all content about LP that you can get your hands on. At the Shrink Equation we will routinely post articles which we hope you find informative. Most of our site will continue to be completely free, so take advantage of this information, use it to stay up to date and learn as much as you can about Asset Protection.
Also if you haven't already, check out The Store Detective Training Manual, a Practical Reference for Current and Aspiring Loss Prevention Officers. I wrote the book to provide an easy and affordable guide for anyone interested in becoming a Store Detective. It’s loaded with valuable information about doing the job, finding a job, and preparing for the interview, and it’s not going to break the bank.
Last but not least, take the time to make friends in Loss Prevention. Linked-In is a great resource. If you don't have a Linked-In account, do yourself a favor and create one, it takes a few minutes. There are LP Groups on Linked-In, be sure to join them so that you can engage others who are already working in the industry. Having a mentor (ore more than one) or career coach who can help steer you in the right direction and boost your confidence can make the difference between being hired or not.
I discovered Loss Prevention more than 20 years ago. Since then, this job has filled my life, given me a career that I love, taken me to just about every corner of this amazing country, and allowed me to provide well for my family. LP is not for everyone, but it's definitely for me, and who knows, it could be a good fit for you also.
I hope you found some of this information helpful. Best of luck in all you do.
To learn about the 6 Steps required before a Store Detective can stop a shoplifter, click here.