TJ Maxx and Marshalls Employees Are Wearing Body Cams During Their Shifts

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FRAMINGHAM, Mass. — TJX, the parent company of TJ Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods, is equipping some store employees with body cameras to “thwart shoplifting and keep customers and employees safe,” according to a recent CNN report.

“It’s almost like a de-escalation, where people are less likely to do something when they’re being videotaped,” said TJX chief financial officer John Klinger on the retail giant’s quarterly call with investors and analysts last month.

TJX has assigned its hourly unarmed security workers, known as loss prevention associates, to wear body cameras in certain stores for the past year, according to the CNN report.

The TJX workers who wear the cameras undergo “thorough training on how to use the cameras effectively in their roles,” a TJX spokesperson told CNN in its report. The company only shares video footage upon law enforcement request or in response to a subpoena, the report says.

“Body cameras are just one of the many ways that we work to support a safe store environment,” the spokesperson said in the CNN report.

Why Retailers Are Relying on Body Cameras

According to the CNN report, 35% of major U.S. retail chains surveyed last year by the National Retail Federation said they were researching body cameras for employees and the manufacturer of Taser devices and other security companies are now designing and marketing body cameras specifically for retail workers.

Some criminologists cited in the CNN report say these efforts to cut down on shoplifting and keep employees safe by having employees wear body cameras during their shifts are noble but not necessarily likely to be effective.

Improved training, better staffing levels in stores and other investments in safety “will go further to protect frontline workers and reduce shoplifting,” the report says. One TJ Maxx retail worker in Florida said the body cameras were “just for show” and their presence did not make employees feel any safer, according to CNN.

The job of these security workers “was to just stand there with the tactical vest labeled ‘security,’ and the camera mounted on the vest,” said the employee in the report, who spoke to CNN under the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters.

“It feels like the implementation of this program with the cameras isn’t meant to achieve anything, but rather just something the company can point to” to say it is improving security, the employee told CNN.

TJX did not provide CNN with any additional details on training or share policy on when the cameras are turned on. The company is one of the only retailers speaking publicly about body cameras and posting job openings with specific details of the cameras in the job description, the report says.

The primary responsibilities of one posted job at a Marshalls in Miami Beach, Fla., are to maintain a “proper and professional stance” at the front of the store, act as a “visual deterrent to prevent potential loss/dishonesty” and wear a company-issued body camera. The description says that the camera is to record “specific events involving critical incidents for legal, safety, and training purposes.”

These employees, who wear a company-approved black vest, black pants and black shoes, “are instructed not to stop or chase after shoplifting suspects,” according to the CNN report.

A Growing Problem

 About 90% of asset protection specialists surveyed last year by the National Retail Federation said the crime “had become more of a risk over the prior three years and that shoplifters have become more violent,” according to the CNN report, but “some analysts say the threat of shoplifting to retailers is overblown.”

In addition to body cameras as theft deterrents, some retailers lock up products behind glass cases, while others are removing self-checkout stations. Some sellers are “working more closely with law enforcement and devoting more internal resources to investigating theft,” the CNN report says.

Some criminologists tell CNN that body cameras “are unlikely to be an added deterrent to shoplifters who already know that there are cameras throughout stores,” according to the report.

“I don’t know how much this will stop someone in the act. They’re already going in with the assumption they will be recorded,” said Ernesto Lopez, a research specialist who has studied shoplifting trends at the Council on Criminal Justice.

Body cameras “could help retailers or law enforcement identify shoplifters, but that would require employees wearing them to get close to a suspect, potentially putting their safety at risk,” according to the CNN report.

“I would be really cautious about putting underpaid, undertrained people in these positions,” said Thaddeus Johnson, a senior research fellow at the Council on Criminal Justice, in the report. “We have to be really careful when we talk about body-worn cameras.”

Stuart Appelbaum, the president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, told CNN, “it’s not enough to just slap a camera on somebody and say it’s an alternative to doing more significant safety measures.”

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