Penney teams up with Motorola to take a bite out of retail crime

In the 1980s, animated public service commercials featuring McGruff the Crime Dog exhorted viewers that: “Together, we can take a bite out of crime.” Two decades later, department store retailer J.C. Penney is taking that spirit of teamwork to cooperatively use technology to combat retail crime in the greater Chicago area.

J.C. Penney is donating a 5,500-sq.-ft. center in the North Riverside Park Mall in North Riverside, Ill., to assist efforts of the Cook County Regional Organized Crime (CCROC) Task Force in combating the prevalent problem of organized retail crime (ORC). The center will house law enforcement offices for various police departments, government agencies and retailers for the purpose of hands-on training and collaboration.

Mark Van Beest, director of global security investigations for J.C. Penney, said the project launched roughly three years ago when the Cook County State’s Attorney Office formed a task force to bring together retailers and law enforcement, but picked up steam about eight to nine months ago when J.C. Penney realized it had spare brick-and-mortar space at the North Riverside Park Mall location.

“It’s a one-stop shop for building an investigative strategy,” said Van Beest. “You can delve into incidents utilizing the technology available and pull cases together for prosecution.”

Technology is a key component to the success of this joint venture aimed at disrupting ORC, both locally and on a broader scale. The Motorola Real-Time Crime Center solution serves as a fundamental platform for helping coordinate the task force’s crime-fighting efforts. Using the Real-Time Crime Center solution, the task force will integrate streaming video, incident and criminal complaints, arrest records, photographs and multimedia inputs stored on separate databases for the purposes of deterring crime as it occurs and also in conducting investigations.

When researching incidents that have already occurred, this functionality will allow task force members to dig into individual aspects of crimes, aggregating information and events with data from other participating retailers and law enforcement agencies. As a result, they will be able to uncover evidence that might link apparently isolated incidents to larger series of crimes that may be local, national or even global in nature, and also serve to aid successful prosecution of criminal activities.

In addition, data from the Real-Time Crime Center solution is made actionable with the integration of a radio console to enable real-time direct voice communications with officers in the field and real-time video streaming to a vehicle or hand-held device over existing carrier or private wireless networks. The solution includes sensing capabilities that can pick up input — such as gunshots, alarms and security camera feeds — and deliver them in real-time to retail or law enforcement personnel in the field.

“We’re exploring use of the technology over retailers’ wireless LAN infrastructures,” said Van Beest. He said the Real-Time Crime Center solution also could have non-security applications, such as visually identifying loyalty customers who a retailer may want to give more personalized treatment during a return or other transaction.

The center goes fully live Sept. 1. Van Beest said the task force has about 1,000 members total, including representatives from 120 different retail companies.

“This is a public/private partnership with no constraints,” concluded Van Beest. “Competitors are collaborating in big ways to solve a major problem.”


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