Center for Problem-Oriented Policing

Summary of Responses to Theft of Customers' Personal Property in Cafés and Bars

The table below summarizes the responses to theft of customers' personal property from cafés and bars, the mechanism by which they are intended to work, the conditions under which they ought to work best, and some factors you should consider before implementing a particular response. It is critical that you tailor responses to local circumstances, and that you can justify each response based on reliable analysis. In most cases, an effective strategy will involve implementing several different responses. Remember that law enforcement responses alone are seldom effective in reducing or solving the problem.


Improving Opportunities for Secure but Convenient Storage
#ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best If…Considerations
1Providing anti-theft furnitureProvides customers with opportunities to store bags securelyFurniture is both attractive and convenient for customersMay be expensive unless furniture needs replacement for other reasons
2Providing retro-fitted secure storageAllows customers to hang bags underneath tables keeping them off the floorClips are visible to customers and appear sturdyThis is less costly than using anti-theft furniture but may not be as robust or as effective
3Providing lockersProvides customers secure storage facilities for items they are unable to watch overLockers are visible to staff and others; customers expect to remain in establishment long enough to justify using lockers; customers are aware of lockersDesignated space(s) for the lockers will be required; locks should be secure but easy to use and require minimal maintenance; lockers should be large enough to allow customers to store bags and items (e.g., laptops) of different sizes
Registration, Recovery, and Removing Benefits
#ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best If…Considerations
4Providing online registration schemes linked to policeFacilitates reporting theft to police and increases chances of recovering stolen property; some registered electronic devices can be disabled, rendering them uselessThere is a high adoption, victims report thefts swiftly, secondhand goods shops cooperate and advertise their involvement, and the scheme is widely publicized periodicallyMay require laws that encourage secondhand goods shops to check for proof of ownership when they purchase secondhand goods
5Sending text bombs to stolen cell phonesIrritates thieves and renders cell phones inoperablePhones are unlikely to be exported to other countries or rapidly reprogrammed; cell phone service providers support the initiativeFinancial costs of running the intervention may be high
6Providing traditional property markingDeters thieves by increasing risks of detection; increases difficulty of disposing of stolen propertyScheme is widely publicized and widely used, and detections are publicizedUnproven effectiveness; may require laws that encourage secondhand goods shops to check for proof of ownership when they purchase secondhand goods
7Educating victims about the rapid cancellation of credit and debit cardsReduces victims' risk of further victimization by credit card fraud and identify theftVictims are provided with timely, comprehensive, and detailed information; message empowers victims rather than simply raising their fearSome program costs to produce up-to-date information materials
Raising Awareness of Risk and Personal Security Solutions
#ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best If…Considerations
8Publicizing the use of safer storage by customersEncourages customers to secure personal itemsSecure storage is possible and practical; message is positive and empowering and does not increase fear of crimeSigns may be costly or annoying to some customers
9Promoting personal security measuresIncreases difficulty in stealing valuablesProducts highlighted are readily available, discounted, aesthetically appealing, and functionalRecommendations should be impartial, accurate, and suitably comprehensive; may require extensive marketing
Increasing Guardianship and Surveillance
#ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best If…Considerations
10Improving natural surveillanceIncreases offenders' perception that they will be observedThe facility's original layout promotes natural surveillance; there are enough staff to keep a watchful eye on customers and their propertyMay be expensive to redesign layout; other customers may be reluctant to intervene; may require staff training and policy on theft intervention
11Using CCTVDeters thieves by increasing likelihood of detectionCrimes occur in areas with little natural surveillance and are obscured from the direct view of staff; CCTV is monitoredCosts for equipment and monitoring; privacy concerns
12Employing door staff in barsBy screening exits, and observing customer behavior, door staff may prevent thieves from entering or deter them from stealingStaff are well trained and visibility is good within the venueCan be expensive and may be unlikely to work where thieves are skilled at stealth offenses
Licensing, Management, and Staffing
#ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best If…Considerations
13Training staffIncreases likelihood of detecting thieves and vulnerable propertyThere are formal, recognized procedures in place for security practicesCosts to train staff
14Requiring theft prevention through licensingImproves routine security practicesCompliance is ensured; security measures are in establishments' financial interestsMay be opposed by hospitality industry; licensing issuance and compliance costs
15Screening staffDecreases likelihood of hiring thievesScreening measures are in establishments' financial interestsMay cause staffing problems by discouraging applications; unproven effectiveness
Detection Strategies
#ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best If…Considerations
16Undertaking sting operationsIncreases likelihood of detectionProlific offenders are known to target particular locations, venues targeted are crime hotspots, CCTV cameras can be used to monitor offender activityMay require authorizing legislation; enforcement costs