Jack McGrath, owner of Muddy Creek Liquors in Edgewater, MD, is, in many ways, a typical beverage alcohol retailer. He has owned Muddy Creek, a 2,000-square-foot store, for eight years. And in that eight years, he has had his share of crime, including a robbery — “He just jumped over the counter and grabbed the money, scaring the hell out of me,” remembered McGrath — employee theft and shoplifting.

According to the latest National Retail Security Survey, a survey done annually by the University of Florida and funded by Sensormatic, a supplier of electronic security systems, the various forms of theft — theft by employees, by vendors and by customers — cost retailers in general almost $26 billion last year. That’s approximately 1.75% of total U.S. retail sales.

Panasonic’s WV-BP50

Meanwhile, violent crime against retail employees is a serious problem. According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the number-one cause of workplace death in the retail industry is violence. And three-quarters of all the homicides that take place in a retail environment are robbery-related.

Beverage alcohol stores are one of the most common workplaces for this type of violence. According to NIOSH data, liquor stores are the second most likely workplace, after taxi-cab services, to experience a homicide.


Happily for Jack McGrath and beverage alcohol retailers like him, security systems and good old common sense can go a long way toward reducing a retailer’s vulnerability to crime. Four years ago, McGrath installed surveillance cameras in his store. At that time, the security company he used, Sentry Surveillance, based in Kennesaw, GA, predicted that at least one of his employees would quit within two weeks of the camera system’s installation because they had been stealing from him.

“And [Sentry] was right. One of my employees had been stealing lottery money,” said McGrath, who estimated that his camera system saves him about $6,000 a year by preventing theft.

Indeed, the people at Sentry claim that one-third of all business failures can be linked to losses from employee theft. The University of Florida’s survey seems to buttress this claim. According to the survey, employee theft is responsible for 42.7% of all retail shrinkage.

And this kind of theft is on the rise. “Employee theft was at the highest levels that we have seen in the eight years we have conducted this survey,” said Dr. Richard C. Hollinger, director of the university’s Security Research Project.

Panasonic’s WV-CS854P (left) is a new unitized camera system featuring the company’s Super Dynamics II camera technology, it will be available early next year.

Employee theft is particularly dangerous for retailers because employees can steal so much. According to the survey, while the average shoplifting incident involves $212.68 worth of losses, the average employee-theft incident involves more than $1,000.

Beverage alcohol retailers are not immune. “Employee theft is the biggie,” said Sharon Sorcenelli, owner of Barnstable Bottle Shop, Sandwich Spirit Shop and the soon-to-open Cedarville Wine & Spirits, all in Massachusetts. Indeed, there is currently a warrant out for the arrest of one of Sorcenelli’s former employees. “They steal by doing a fake bottle redemption, they ring a sale, then hit “No Sale


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