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How artificial intelligence is being used to stop retail theft

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Posted at 10:02 AM, Nov 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-18 11:43:45-05

For many retailers, the holiday season is the biggest time of the year, and with increased concern about retail theft, many stores are putting in new tools to catch those who may be shoplifting.

One of those tools is artificial intelligence. It's used at Lunardi's, a Bay Area grocery store.

“We actually have an alert right now," said Rick Sanchez, director of Lunardi's.

The security system sent an alert to his phone that showed a customer who may have taken a product and put it in their bag.

The system uses artificial intelligence software that scans security camera footage in real-time for customer movements that may be shoplifting.

“Essentially, we’re training the cameras to see. We’re giving them a brain," says Hiren Mowji of Veesion, the French company that created the technology being used at Lunardi's and several other stores nationwide.

Veesion's technology doesn't consider someone's race, sex or how they're dressed. Instead, it alerts store staff if it thinks a customer may have taken a product and put it in their back pocket or backpack.

That employee can then determine whether that person needs to be approached and escorted out of the store.

Mowji also says the artificial intelligence becomes more accurate over time as it collects data with each incident.

Sanchez says the system will catch at least one shoplifter a day at his store.

Veesion's artificial intelligence system is just one example of the new high-tech tools retailers use to stop crime.

More than half of stores are increasing what they spend on security and loss prevention, according to the National Retail Federation.

“Sadly, with crime impacting the price consumers pay as well and retailers want to pass as much savings as possible to consumers, especially at a time of high inflation and theft and losses going out the door impacting all of us," says Jason Straczewski, the National Retail Federation's vice president of government relations and political affairs.

According to the National Retail Federation's 2022 National Retail Security Survey, retailers reported losing almost $100 billion in products to retail crime.

Straczewski says part of the problem is some police departments don’t treat retail crime as a high priority and thieves, especially crime rings that re-sell stolen products online, take advantage of that.

"The signal was sent that you could run into a store, steal property, run out the door and either resell it online in another location for your own personal profit and no one was going to file charges and come after you,” Straczewski said.

The National Retail Federation is pushing Congress to pass two bills by the end of 2022.

The Combating Organized Retail Crime Act would create a Homeland Security task force to help law enforcement share information on organized retail crime across state lines.

The INFORM Consumers Act would force online marketplaces to verify third-party sellers to make it more difficult for stolen items to be sold.

"We’re adding a tool that can really help them combat organized retail crime. It’s a problem that’s not going to be solved overnight," Mowji said.

Mowji sees his technology as necessary but knows some people may see A.I. as intrusive.

“With the right guidance in place, we can introduce those technologies to small businesses and enterprise business owners and make the world a better place for everybody," Mowji said.