Cost effectively protecting your business from the risk of crime.Aisling-Daly.gif

Risk can be defined as a calculation under conditions of uncertainty as to whether a loss, damage or harm to oneself or another will occur. We all face uncertainty on a daily basis; such as will I arrive at work safely in my car? The choice we make as to whether or not we drive our car to work is made by calculating and evaluating the information that is known to us at that time for example, are the road conditions treacherous? Is my car road worthy?  

This calculation and evaluation of risk vs reward and consequence leads us to the choices we make in whether or not the risk is acceptable. We are all born with the ability to make decisions in the face of uncertainty, which in itself is a form of managing risks. Within the business environment we subconsciously assess risks on a regular basis which includes assessing the risk of criminal activity to enable us to make decisions regarding protection measures.

The retail pharmacy sector can unfortunately be specifically targeted by offenders in some cases, as the reward of obtaining medicines stocked can often be the primary cause of the criminal activity. Couple this with the perception of risk to the offender being diminished due to the physical and mental need for the medicines which they cannot obtain legitimately, and the risk of criminal activity can increase. A variety of different techniques can be utilised to reduce, transfer, avoid or control risks, however we do not always consider alternatives or measures which are complimentary to the customary crime prevention hardware or electronics. Consideration must be given to how an offender views your pharmacy to enable you to introduce measures to ensure your pharmacy is not perceived as a soft target for crime.

In the same way we assess the risk of crime the process of risk assessment is performed by offenders when making decisions regarding potential criminal activity. Offenders will weigh the chances of being caught and the consequences against the potential rewards of the activity before coming to a decision to commit a crime. We could argue that some offenders have little or no fear of the consequences due to the length of sentences imposed by the justice system, or that not enough is being done to tackle the problems of drug, alcohol and gambling addictions, however these are issues that we can have little effect on. The only aspects of the offender risk assessment process we can have an effect on are the perception of likelihood of being caught, and the perceived effort involved in committing the offence. Therefore making your pharmacy look like a difficult target regarding crime is your main defence and can be achieved in a cost effective and customer friendly manner.

The temptation when reacting to a risk of crime is often to throw money into new hardware or security guarding hours, however protecting your pharmacy is not all about chains, bars, cameras and restrictive controls which can potentially take away from your customers shopping experience. A variety of different techniques can be utilised to reduce, transfer, avoid or control the risks identified. Primary or physical security aspects of your pharmacy such as CCTV and product tagging are not the only risks taken into account by offenders. They will also register staff awareness, interaction and natural surveillance. These soft preventative methods are often overlooked and undervalued but play a significant role in deterring criminal activity. For example the best deterrent to petty theft or shoplifting is excellent customer service as you are increasing the effort required by the offender to complete the crime, and increasing the risk to the offender of being caught. Shoplifters want to get in, get goods and get out as quickly as possible, and without interaction with staff members. Using direct interaction through customer service as opposed to hovering or spying on customers acting suspiciously also saves valuable staff time and decreases the likelihood of the customer becoming irritated or aggressive.

Test cases conducted within the Irish retail pharmacy sector has shown that active customer service is not only more effective at preventing theft than electronic security measures but also increases sales.   

With regards to more serious incidents of crimes such as robbery or burglary, offenders will often do their ‘homework’ prior to the event by entering the pharmacy to assess the risks involved. It is at this stage that staff training, awareness and customer service can play a vital role in crime prevention. Too often following an incident does a staff member come forward stating that they had seen suspicious activity from individuals prior to the incident but did nothing about it. In the majority of cases this is simply because the staff member has not received adequate training and is not equipped with the knowledge or skills to be able to deal with such situations. When devising or obtaining staff training or policies in the areas of crime prevention, security and safety it must be stressed that these should always have the personal safety of your staff and customers as it’s focal point, and the knowledge given to the staff members is to enable them to confidently deter incidents of crime and safely respond to incidents that do occur.

Creating a culture of awareness amongst your staff regarding crime, and how to react effectively to suspicious behaviour and to incidents can provide your pharmacy with the most effective crime prevention tool available on the market today.

Other non invasive crime preventative measures which may be easily achieved range from the enforcement of a key control policy where safe and premises keys are not held by the same person overnight, to ensuring that risk of crime is considered when producing floor and merchandising plans. The placement of high value products, layout of floor stands and even restricting natural surveillance with posters and show-material can all impact on levels of theft and serious crime. An offender with a choice of committing a crime in a pharmacy where the counters can be seen clearly by persons outside versus a pharmacy with windows full of show material will in most cases choose the option which gives them the most privacy. Measures such as these do not have a negative impact on your customers shopping experience, however they will increase the perceived effort needed to an offender with little effort or outlay on the part of your pharmacy.

Although electronic and hardware security such as locks, safes, cameras and alarms are necessary in today’s retail environment most retail outlets have these measures. Unfortunately we cannot eliminate retail crime altogether, however by enhancing the physical security of your pharmacy with the cost effective customer friendly measures detailed above you will help create the perception that your pharmacy is not a soft target for crime without having a negative impact on sales. 


Aisling Daly MSc

Director at Tonic Consultancy Ltd.

Highly experienced security, risk and profit protection professional with a proven track record in obtaining industry leading results.

MSc in Security and Risk Management