Prosecution, civil penalties, or alternative justice programs…no perfect choice for the retailer for combatting the shoplifting problem. Each option is beneficial in allowing the retailer to recover some losses, affect some recidivism and deter some theft.
Prosecution was once the best alternative as a deterrent, but in today’s world, the court systems are overburdened and the retailer is fortunate if they can get police response on petty crimes. If the wrongdoer receives a criminal sentence, they go into a system that does little or nothing for recidivism. The first offender may get a community service judgement and if completed within the proportioned time limit, may have their record expunged. We all know the prison system is in need of reform, and if the court does order restitution, the likelihood of it being paid is not guaranteed since many courts do not pursue or follow up on missed payments, or defaulted accounts, etc.
What are the best avenues to take for petty theft and larceny-related crimes? There is probably a mix, but what is that mix? Retailers are in the business to make money. As much as we take it personally when someone steals from us, at the end of the day, it’s not up to the loss prevention team to affect punishment. It’s up to the loss prevention team to protect the assets of the company, which means protecting profits. Successful loss prevention professionals follow this mantra and strive to strike the right balance that deters and responds to theft in a way that does not expose the retailer to negative publicity, legal issues and expense. However, just like a police force, it is beneficial to create a sense of community within their retail markets by utilizing alternative justice and civil recovery programs as these show compassion and at the same time, good business sense.
Even though there are limitations within these programs such as, the identification of “first” offender through alternative programs can only be identified if they have not been successfully prosecuted or they have not been apprehended by the same retailer. Due to privacy laws, minors are not vetted completely and may make it through the program due to the inability to identify their prior offenses. Al Capone was arrested 11 times before the courts were able to prosecute him. Al would have been eligible for alternative justice programs as a “first offender” had those programs been available in the early 1900’s. This may be a slight exaggeration but for those of us who have been in the business of apprehending shoplifters, the shoplifter will undoubtedly say, “But, it’s my first time”. We silently reply in our minds, “…yeah, first time for getting caught!”. That being said, there is definitely a benefit to provide a well thought out program with parameters that will qualify some first offenders and rule out others. Certainly, we don’t want first offenders who are working with ORC operators to be offered such a program but without certain parameters, they will. Figuring out those parameters is key, but very tricky. While these programs seem to work well for those who can afford to pay the program fee, it may deter others who could benefit as well, simply because they can’t afford it and are not sure whether there is payment flexibility.
Studies are unclear as to whether any of these programs are more effective than the other as it relates to recidivism, mostly due to other variables that have to do with loss prevention programs and criteria set to direct shoplifters into each program. These statistics vary and data is not equally measured but the answer lies somewhere between these programs and having a solid “Loss Prevention or Asset Protection” program.
Developing great customer service among the sales staff, increasing employee awareness, enforcing defensive merchandise placement strategies creating metrics to identify areas of opportunities, and then applying technology such as cameras, alarms, E.A.S, etc., to bring those areas of concern back into line, are undoubtedly the first steps. Hiring the “best of the best” in this field to collaborate on ideas and best practices while addressing overt behavior such as internal theft, shoplifting, fraud, and other crimes while understanding and defining the legal acumens that today’s loss prevention staff have to deal with day to day, are the second step. All of these efforts have one thing in common. They all add expense and do not directly promote sales. As a result, LP budgets face constant flux and challenge. While none of this information is necessarily new, it presents the opportunity to review the necessity of a good civil recovery program to be able to help fund loss prevention efforts and represent the retailer’s brand in the best possible way.
Civil Recovery was originally implemented by California and local governments to allow libraries to recover monetary penalty from delinquent borrowers of books. When retailers discovered theses statutes, they began lobbying for similar statutes to be written to address theft. Today, most states have a civil recovery statute for the theft of merchandise. Several states have taken it a step further to include cash theft for dishonest employees. Although these statutes don’t change often, when they do, it is usually to define statute amounts that are “reasonable” along with guidelines designed to create a due diligence by the retailer and their civil recovery solution provider to follow through with pursuing defaulted cases in civil court or small claims court. Utilizing these programs properly and creating consequences for the thief, may ultimately be the final and perhaps best step toward affecting recidivism and hopefully recovering enough funds to help supplement loss prevention programs as truly intended. When these funds are not applied for this expressed purpose, we are shooting ourselves in the proverbial foot! Creating risk adverse practices, improved client communication, and holding your service providers in these categories accountable are just another key to a comprehensive loss prevention program.
Maintaining a positive moral compass in the current business world requires one to understand their position in the sea of rough waves and calm oceans. Knowing how the business world works is one step in navigating your company in the right direction, the ethical direction.
Today, services and products are presented to the decision-maker in a sizzling fashion, absent the steak. For example, if a company makes the impression that their service or product is innovative or a game-changing, but it already existed, then the truth will come out eventually.
Many people in business today compromise their morals for the sake of the bottom line. After spending the past 27 years in the same arena I can honestly say I have seen businesses and ideas come and go. The ones with a future will never make a promise they can’t keep or portray something as truth when they know it isn’t. In other words, honesty, the ethical choice, matters.
When a business identifies a need, and builds excitement surrounding their solution, the business should be truthful in explaining the readiness and timeliness of the solution, instead of putting it out there to disappoint clients for the sake of early profits. If the product or service is going to supply a solution, have the conviction to build it and “they will come.” If you are not an innovator and only an imitator have the strength to make it better or less expensive; not just say you can perform simply to keep a competitor at bay. Having the power to maintain integrity reflects on the bottom line when it matters because clients will stay with you or come back to you. The ethical choice is never the wrong choice because longevity should be the ultimate goal.
Those with tenure in the industry will tell you the only way to build lasting relationships is to be truthful, above the temptation to be unethical. This is of course if one is looking for a career, and not just a job.
There are a plethora of books, publications and commentary about what skills and attributes are necessary to be an impactful leader in business, as well as in life. However, where those may focus on what to say, how to act, or ways to create change, a primary feature of a great leader is the willingness and ability to listen. Not just biding time during a conversation, thinking about what you want to say and pretending to listen until you get a chance to speak, but focusing on what is actually being said and what it might mean to that person.
When I first started out at Civil Demand Associates I brought with me this unique skill set which I continue to use today. Knowing ones product/ service is only a portion of this art. Knowing the needs of your client is probably more important and in order to determine needs one needs to ask pertinent questions and listen attentively. Once the answer is heard a solution can be either developed or provided.
As a solution provider it is our job to try and develop products and services based on the vision provided by our clients. Not by reaction but by a combination of experience, vision and a overall ability to see the need for an entire industry. From there development should be tested by early adaptors who have the same vision.
Delivery promises should not be over stated. Never say you can deliver when you can’t. It would be better to build it first because you will usually only get one shot to come up with a game changer. It is also important not to oversell. Once a decision maker has been persuaded have the sense to stop selling at that point. This could be categorized as knowing when to be silent and move on. All of this is a part of the art of listening.
Civil Demand Associates was founded in 1987 on some of these very principles. Retailers were struggling to send demand letters and tracking payments manually. Fifteen states had civil recovery laws most of which were in the west. CDA was established as a way to outsource this valuable revenue stream as well as a way to help provide a financial deterrent. CDA was the first company to develop software and business logic designed to handle thousands of files, payments and reporting.
In the years to follow clients brought other types of theft cases for collection. Dishonest employee restitution collections, court ordered restitution and vendor fraud to mention a few. All these have added to CDA’s offering so that a well-rounded service with no initial investment is now available on a contingency basis.
In 2010 CDA brought forth a new concept to combat major organized retail crime by using federal civil RICO statutes to seize assets of those at the top of these illegal enterprises.
As you can see it all comes down to listening to the needs of the industry and developing means to help loss prevention practitioners bring back lost profits to the bottom line.
Lauren Pedro to Lead Civil Demand Associate, Inc. New York Office
New York, NY (February 3, 2016) Civil Demand Associates, Inc. is proud to announce the hiring of seasoned veteran, Lauren Pedro to lead the organization’s New York office as the firm’s east coast Marketing and Inside Sales Manager.
Ms. Pedro comes to CDA with close to a decade of retail loss prevention experience and has been integral in auditing retail clients for operational compliance, developing recommendations, and authoring policies and procedures within the consulting department she managed. In her previous role as a Sr. Client Services Manager, Ms. Pedro mastered numerous business units and worked closely with clients to customize, advise, and adapt customized solutions to create better efficiencies. “Communication is the key; and, my goal is to always communicate early and often.”
Ms. Pedro will join CDA’s leadership in the further development of programs and solutions to reach new clients, bringing the company’s dedicated focus and stellar reputation in civil recovery practices and collection services to a wider audience. CDA, a pioneer in its industry, was formed in 1987 to help retailers effectively and affordably recover loss from theft while helping to deter shoplifting and employee dishonesty. The company has continued to pave the way and achieve numerous milestones in the industry. CDA was the first to specialize in retail theft cases, accept electronic transmission, offer online case management, offer automated court restitution collections and demand point.
“BP Fisher Law Group, LLP acquired CDA based on its strong reputation in the civil recovery industry,” said Matthew Browndorf, founder and chairman of Plutos Sama, parent company of BP Fisher Law Group, LLP and its subsidiary CDA. “Our ability to strengthen Civil Demand Associates through shared resources and by applying our legal and compliance expertise poises this company for tremendous growth.”
As a subsidiary of BP Law Group, LLP, CDA will now have the network and power to fulfill its industry demands. In addition to an extended team of attorneys and legal professionals, CDA will have access to a call center and a more cost-effective ability to achieve compliance standards critical the loss prevention industry.
About Civil Demand Associates, Inc.: Formed in 1987, Civil Demand Associates is the nation’s oldest, most established civil recovery firm. As a pioneer and first in the field of civil demand and restitution, the company has achieved numerous industry milestones. CDA was the first to specialize in retail theft cases, accept electronic transmission, offer online case management, offer automated court restitution collections and demand point. In addition, they are the first to offer civil collections on vendor fraud and employee procurement, collections on external cases, court ordered restitution, promissory note collection(s) on dishonest employee cases, and automated the letter generation process. In February 2015, CDA became part of Irvine, Calif.-based BP Fisher Law Group, LLP as a wholly owned subsidiary. For more information, visit civildemand.com or first-legal.com. To learn more about CDA’s parent company Plutos Sama, LLC and to see its corporate portfolio, visit plutossama.com.
IRVINE, Calif. – June 24, 2015 – Plutos Sama, LLC announced today that it has completed the acquisition of The Fisher Law Group, PLLC, a default law firm practicing in Maryland and the District of Columbia. Plutos Sama is a vertically integrated holding company, providing its clients with the legal resources needed to develop across a variety of sectors, asset classes and regions around the globe. Included among its holdings are BP Law Group, LLP, a creditors’ rights law firm with a network of offices throughout the country, and Wilson & Associates, PLLC, a foreclosure law firm primarily serving Arkansas and Tennessee. The acquisition further solidifies Plutos Sama’s representation in more than 18 states and jurisdictions with a focus on performing and nonperforming loans.
“The addition of The Fisher Law Group to the Plutos Sama portfolio will result in an increase of projected revenue from $54 million to $64 million on a consolidated basis, and positions our company for further growth in the distressed asset market,” said Plutos Sama’s founder and chairman Matthew Browndorf. “The acquisition of The Fisher Law Group will augment the comprehensive legal service offerings to our clients on a national scale. Plutos Sama’s success is derived from a strategic model which delivers new revenue streams based on the company’s entrepreneurial leadership, vertically integrated portfolio companies and shared resources among its portfolio of companies.”
During the next quarter, Plutos Sama plans to merge The Fisher Law Group into BP Law Group, LLP under the name BP Fisher Law Group, LLP. The combined entity will conduct or manage residential foreclosure and bankruptcy matters in 18 states and the District of Columbia.
New Leadership Team to Tap into Expansive Expertise of Fisher Law Group
Jeffrey Fisher, founder of The Fisher Law Group, will remain with the firm and serve as the executive vice president of business development of the combined entities. The Fisher Law Group, founded in 1998, by Fisher is an “AV” rated law firm and concentrates its practice in representing banks and mortgage loan servicers respecting foreclosure and related default services.
“When I met Matt, I was immediately impressed with his vision and drive,” said Fisher. “I am happy to allow him to grow our firm to the next level following my years of stewardship. We have identified core competencies that are complementary which will make the whole greater than the sum of the parts for the future BP Fisher Law, LLP.”
Martin Goldberg, who has been with The Fisher Law Group for eighteen years, will serve as lead attorney of the Maryland office. He will manage and oversee the operations of FLG, working closely with the operations team in Irvine, Calif. The law firm’s subsidiary title company, FLG Title LLC, will be included in this transaction at such time as appropriate licenses are issued and agency contracts are executed.