Combatting organized retail crime with AI: Insights from Kroger and Jacksons Food

Produced by


Cynthia Countouris

Global Director, AI for Retail

Dr. Read Hayes

Loss Prevention Retail Council (LPRC)

Robert Hampton

VP Technology Services and Innovation, Jacksons Food Stores

Mike Lamb

Vice President, Asset Protection & Safety
The Kroger Co.

Matt Barkovitz

Director, Smart Retail, Global Accounts

In the battle against Organized Retail Crime (ORC), technology has emerged as a critical ally for retailers like Kroger and Jacksons Food, who are actively leveraging AI solutions to counteract the surge in theft. Dr. Read Hayes, Director of the Loss Prevention Retail Council (LPRC), set the stage by emphasizing the multifaceted role of AI in enhancing security measures within the retail sector. He highlighted the evolving nature of retail crime, noting its exponential growth in scope, scale, and aggressiveness, while underscoring the importance of data collaboration between retailers and law enforcement agencies to combat this phenomenon effectively.

Dr. Hayes facilitated a discussion with industry veterans like Mike Lam, who shared insights from his experiences at Kroger Company, shedding light on the real-world impact of ORC on retail operations. Lam emphasized the pivotal role of technology in safeguarding both customers and employees, recounting instances where AI-powered solutions had bolstered security measures, particularly in high-risk areas like self-checkout terminals. He illustrated how AI-driven analytics provided valuable insights into potential threats, allowing retailers to preemptively mitigate risks and prevent loss.

The conversation delved into the nuances of ORC, with Dr. Hayes exploring the intricacies of coordinated crime versus opportunistic theft. By analyzing offender behavior patterns and leveraging AI algorithms, retailers can identify and deter criminal activity effectively. Dr. Hayes emphasized the importance of a comprehensive approach to security, encompassing both proactive prevention measures and rapid response protocols.

The discussion also touched upon the role of AI in addressing emerging threats such as mass attacks and active shooters, underscoring the need for advanced surveillance technologies to enhance situational awareness and facilitate swift intervention. By integrating AI-powered sensors and analytics into their security infrastructure, retailers can create a more resilient defense against evolving threats.

Furthermore, Dr. Hayes emphasized the importance of collaboration and information sharing within the retail ecosystem, advocating for a unified approach to combating ORC. Dr. Hayes highlighted the LPRC's collaborative initiatives with retailers, law enforcement agencies, and technology providers, emphasizing the value of collective intelligence in staying ahead of sophisticated criminal networks.

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Mike Lamb, Vice President of Asset Protection & Safety at The Kroger Co., spoke about the challenges posed by organized retail crime and the company's efforts to address them. He noted that over his 40-plus years in the industry, the escalation of organized theft in recent years has been astounding. Lamb emphasized that safety is a top priority for Kroger, highlighting the increasing violence associated with organized theft incidents.

Mike discussed the evolution of Kroger's approach to addressing organized crime, including the implementation of new technologies and strategies. He mentioned the importance of leveraging technology, such as AI and advanced surveillance systems, to combat theft effectively. He also emphasized the significance of partnerships with solution providers and support from senior leadership in implementing these measures.

One key aspect of Kroger's strategy is its risk-rating model, which categorizes theft incidents based on factors such as spontaneity, organization, and propensity for violence. Mike explained how Kroger identifies "extreme" stores, where theft and violence are particularly problematic, and implements specialized strategies to address these issues.

Regarding self-checkout theft, Mike acknowledged the challenges posed by this method of theft and outlined Kroger's efforts to combat it. These efforts include the use of technology to detect and prevent theft at self-checkout lanes, as well as ongoing collaboration with solution providers to stay ahead of evolving tactics used by thieves.

Throughout his remarks, Mike stressed the importance of data-driven decision-making and collaboration with industry partners, law enforcement, and other stakeholders to effectively address organized crime and ensure the safety of customers and associates. He also highlighted the need for continuous innovation and adaptation in response to emerging threats and changing circumstances in the retail landscape.

Robert Hampton, VP Technology Services and Innovation at Jacksons Food Stores, began by referencing a recent article from the National Association of Convenience Stores, highlighting the significant increase in per-store losses since January 2020, emphasizing the industry's heightened focus on security. He underscored the prioritization of safety for both store personnel and customers, acknowledging the collaborative effort with partners to explore technologies like slip and fall detection and crowd monitoring.

Differentiating the challenges faced by convenience stores from those of big-box retailers like Home Depot or Walmart, Robert identified fuel theft as a major concern and outlined the utilization of computer vision technology, particularly from partners like Radius AI, Lenovo, and Nvidia, to combat such theft. Additionally, he addressed issues like gift card fraud and theft through self-checkout systems, illustrating the multifaceted approach to security solutions.

Robert elaborated on the implementation of computer vision technology at fuel islands, describing its capability to monitor vehicles, detect anomalies, and identify different vehicle types to flag potential theft incidents. He emphasized the importance of leveraging existing infrastructure and partnerships to deploy cost-effective solutions effectively.

Furthermore, Robert emphasized the need to consolidate data and provide actionable insights to store operators, stressing the role of AI in identifying trends and enabling proactive measures against theft. He highlighted the versatility of computer vision technology, not only for loss prevention but also for enhancing customer experience and staff productivity, thereby maximizing return on investment.

Lastly, Robert advised planning for future scalability and flexibility in technology solutions to accommodate evolving security needs, urging the consideration of modular and upgradable options to streamline future enhancements without significant hardware investments.

Cynthia Countouris, Global Director of AI for Retail at NVIDIA, highlighted the varying experiences and approaches to security among retailers, citing a survey showing that 35% of retailers are actively investing in loss prevention and safety solutions. She emphasized the criticality and urgency of addressing these issues within the industry. Cynthia highlighted the rapid evolution of technology in areas like computer vision and video analytics, stressing the importance of collaboration and partnerships to leverage these advancements effectively. She encouraged retailers to work with technology partners, independent software vendors, and industry research organizations to create robust, tailored solutions. Additionally, Cynthia emphasized the importance of long-term planning and future-proofing when implementing security solutions, advising retailers to consider their broader vision and potential future needs to avoid costly rework or system replacements down the line. She urged retailers to incorporate scalability and flexibility into their planning processes to ensure their security solutions can adapt to evolving challenges and requirements over time.

Matt Barkovitz, Director of Smart Retail at Lenovo, echoed Cynthia's sentiments regarding the importance of holistic approaches to security solutions in retail. He emphasized the need to transition from a decomposed, piecemeal approach to a more integrated strategy, leveraging AI platforms to combat security threats effectively. Matt acknowledged the complexity that comes with managing the massive amounts of data generated by these solutions and highlighted Lenovo's role in assisting retailers with deploying and utilizing these technologies efficiently.

As the conversation drew to a close, the speakers underscored the ongoing evolution of AI-driven security solutions, highlighting the need for continuous innovation and adaptation. They emphasized the importance of establishing clear protocols and processes for deploying AI technologies effectively, while also acknowledging the critical role of human expertise in interpreting and contextualizing AI-generated insights.

In conclusion, the discussion underscored the transformative potential of AI in empowering retailers to combat organized retail crime effectively. By harnessing the power of AI-driven analytics and surveillance technologies, retailers can enhance their ability to detect, deter, and respond to security threats, ultimately creating safer environments for both customers and employees. As the retail landscape continues to evolve, collaboration, innovation, and a proactive approach to security will remain paramount in safeguarding against the growing threat of organized crime.

MAR 2024