Feb 6, 2018 in Case Study


The crime related to Starbucks fall under shoplifting category.  A shoplifting crime is defined as theft against retail establishment.  The crime is studied through situational crime prevention (SCP) concept.  The SCP is an action research model that comprises of the following elements: data collection, analysis of the problem, choice of solution, implementation and evaluation (Situational Crime Prevention).  This research explains offenders’ choice of the target with regard to effort, risk and reward, and provides recommendations how to reduce crime.

Data Collection

The store is located in busy Houston downtown area.  The store presentation follows Starbucks classic design concept.  The store has several open cabinets that contain Starbucks items like Stainless Steel Tumbler, Starbucks 12 oz Red cup, Blend coffee along with a glowing stainless tumbler, and other items.  The store is busy especially during lunchtime.

Analysis of the problem

The fundamental concept of crime prevention incorporates two different methods: change people’s criminal motivation, and reduce the opportunity for crime (10 Principles of Crime Opportunity).  Criminal motivation and crime opportunity are functions of the SCP opportunity matrix that has the five main mechanisms: Effort, Risks, Rewards, Provocations, and Excuses (Clarke, 1997).  SCP mechanisms help to analyze the crime.  This research used SCP mechanism to analyze the crime.  Each mechanism has five different techniques (Twenty Five Techniques).  SCP recommends using these techniques to reduce people’s criminal motivation and crime opportunity. 

The effort mechanism plays a significant role in crime.  Offenders analyze how much effort is required to commit a crime.  The SCP defines effort mechanism through five variables, out of which the three are relevant to this case.  These variables explain how easy to access to the facility, how easy to access to the target, and how easy to exit from the facility.  The facility does not have electronic doors for entrance and exit.  The display items are placed in open cabinets.  The access to the targets is easy. 

It has been established that the offenders are concerned about the risks being caught (Increase the Risk of Crime).  Offenders’ temptation for committing crimes reduces if the risk is overwhelming.  The risk mechanism uses five variables in order to increase the risk.  In the Starbuck case, out of five variables surveillance and utilization are significant.  If surveillance is weak, temptation is higher and opposite if, surveillance is strong.  The facility does not have any surveillance program and technique.  Moreover, lunchtime rush makes matters worse.  Employees are busy serving customers, and customers are eager to be served as fast as possible.  This situation gives offenders a rewarding edge to remove items from the open cabinets

Offenders perform crimes in anticipation of rewards (Reduce the Rewards of Crime).  Reward mechanism offers five variables in order to reduce the rewards.  These variables are concealing and removing targets, identifying properties, disrupting markets of stolen goods, and denying benefits of crime.  Offenders, in this case, get rewards either by selling or using the items. 

Provocation mechanism studies degree of frustration, disputes, emotional arousal, pressure and imitation (Twenty Five Techniques).  Lunchtime service is not fast enough, and degree of frustration among customers’ increases. 

Excuse mechanism explains if any of the offenders have reasons for excuse (Remove Excuses for Crime).  The offender uses excuse mechanism to rationalize own behavior towards the crime without having feelings of guilt or shame.  SCP analyzes excuse mechanism through five different variables: by setting rules, posting instructions, alerting conscience, assisting compliance, and controlling drugs and alcohol.  The facility does not use any of above techniques.

Choice of solution

Study has shown that the absence of proper preventive strategy causes crime (Situational Crime Prevention).  Owner unwillingness to undertake a preventive strategy provides an opportunity for a crime to take place.  Solution choice should determine the following (Find the Owner):

Who owns this problem?

Why has the owner allowed the problem to develop?

What is required to get the owner to undertake the prevention?

The owner of the problem is the owner of the location.  In this case, Starbucks is a renting the property; hence, both the property and Starbucks owner share this problem.  The crime occurred because the owners were ignorant about how to prevent the crime; owners thought crime is exclusively a police task. 

This analysis developed response to this problem.  Response selection offered preventive measures considering the cost effectiveness, focusing on near direct causes.  Recommendations are based on SCP techniques.

Increase the Effort.  Offenders examine how much effort is required to commit a crime (Increase the effort of Crime).  In this case, among five recommended, two variables could be implied: targets hardening, and screen exits.  Target hardening has been a highly effective method in reducing criminal opportunities.  The purpose of this method is to create a physical barrier between the object and thief.  The items at Starbucks are displayed in open cabinets.  Items could be placed in the closed cabinets.  However, use of closed cabinets would eliminate entire marketing concept that the owner is using.  The customers will be deprived of having a closer look to the items.  The shop’s marketing idea is to attract the customers through physical touch with the objects.  Target hardening technique is not applicable in this situation.  We recommend the use of electronic merchandise tags and screen exits.  Study showed that the use of screen exit technique has reduced 35 – 37 percent shop lifting in American stores (Clarke, 1997)

Increase the risks.  Offenders always weigh the risk while committing crimes.  Analysis of data showed the lack of surveillance was a weak point in the Starbucks theft case.  SCP recommends five different techniques that reduce crime.  We recommend the use of Strengthen formal surveillance technique.  The employees may provide surveillance.  Study showed that variety of “place mangers” such as park lot attendants, park keepers, hotel door attendant, and shop assistants might assist the surveillance purpose (Clarke, 1997).  We recommend employing a shop assistant who would also explain the display items to the customers and help them choose one.  This technique serves both marketing and surveillance purpose.

Reduce rewards.  The offenders commit crimes for benefit.  The SCP recommends five techniques to reduce rewards.  Concealing and removal of targets are obviously not options in Starbucks theft case.  Identifying property and denying benefits could be options for this case.  Identifying property technique might not be an option since the items are most likely used for offenders’ personal uses.  That is why, we recommend using denying benefit technique with ink merchandise tags.  It releases ink and stains garments (Clarke, 1997).

Reduce the provocations.  It has been mentioned that service at lunchtime rush is not fast enough that creates a long line of frustrated and emotionally aroused customers.  In the Starbucks theft case, we recommend using reduce frustrations and stress technique by implementing fast and courteous service, and providing with soothing music.

Remove excusesAlert conscience is recommended to use for removal excuses mechanism.  The owners can use banners like “shoplifting is stealing”; “shop assistants are ready to help you on display items.»  This technique will also aware the offenders about surveillance, which will reduce the shoplifting temptation.

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