The Robot and the Shoplifter

Steve arriving at work. Not an employee - a shoplifter.

Steve arriving at work. Not an employee – a shoplifter.

Steve barely glanced upwards as he strode through the doors of the local office retailer. He deliberately didn’t ‘notice’ the greeter at the shopping carts, Steve looked like he was a man on a mission. Not one of those laid-back shoppers, he gave the impression of someone who wanted to get in, get what he was looking for, and get out with the minimum hassle. And that is exactly the image he wanted to convey.

He didn’t look up at the security cameras in the ceiling, he had scoped those out on an earlier visit. So, he went straight back to the electronics section. He stayed away from the really high end products, instead he went to the mid-range stuff, under a hundred dollars, and hit the digital recorders, all sealed up in bulky plastic clam-shells, with RFID tags attached. He checked the locations of the clerks, blocked the view of the overhead camera with his body, and deftly slit the bottom of the clam-shell on his target. He didn’t remove anything yet, he just cut open the bottom of the package.  Then, with his hands clearly empty, he walked down the aisle to look at flash drives.  He sorted through a couple, while he waited to see if anyone was going to respond to his preparations.

At this point the hard work was done, he would just walk back, block the camera again, and with a quick twist, slip the recorder into his hand, and into his waistband; leaving the empty package and the RFID tag on the rack. Easy-peasey.  Then he’d shake his head, look disgusted and walk out – if anyone asked he’d explain that they didn’t have the model he wanted, and he would order it from the online store.

A robot on patrol

Security robots cannot be ‘socially engineered’ and stay focused on their assigned tasks.

Then things went wrong – wrong from Steve’s perspective. The Security Robot came around the corner of the aisle, and stopped – looking at Steve. It was about five feet tall, and moved quietly on rubber wheels. It had a camera on top pointed right at Steve. This camera was not in the ceiling several aisles away, it was within 10 feet and Steve knew that a perfect image of his face was already recorded. He also knew that he didn’t know anything about the other capabilities of this security robot. The fact that he didn’t know made the risks too high.

Was a facial recognition program already scanning through thousands of stored images, looking for him? He had heard that they did this in Vegas, and you would get busted before you made it past the door. Was the robot already radioing a human security officer, who would be waiting up front?  Could the security robot scan his pulse and respiration to detect his stress levels?  Steve just didn’t know, and not knowing was enough to stop his plan in its tracks.

Steve abandoned his plan to rip-off this store, and started walking towards the front. The robot rolled along behind him.  Was it following him even now? Steve simply didn’t know and that convinced him to move faster. As he left the electronics section, the security robot turned and went back on patrol. “That thing is just too damn smart,” thought Steve. And he mentally crossed this store off his ‘hit list’.  “Better safe than arrested,” he said to himself.

Theft from retail stores amounts to 35 million dollars a day according to some studies, and is a leading cause of losses to retail businesses. Hundreds of millions more are spent on theft resistant packaging, RFID tags, and other forms of theft prevention. But it is generally agreed that deterrence is the best solution – keep the thieves out in the first place.  We are working on our “Retail Loss Prevention” option package for our award winning security robots, to aid in the reduction of these types of thefts.


For more information about our advanced security robots, contact Vigilant Robots at 303-778-7400


Where is your robot?® Ours are made in the USA to reduce crime and keep people safe!

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  1. #1 by Samyra on December 26, 2013 - 2:46 am

    Just an idea, would it make it more effective for loss prevention to stage apprehensions of mock thieves? Just to even add more doubt when people go around and downplay the robots’ role in the store?

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