Crime and Safety

Security guards at Walgreens stores plagued by theft ‘not there to protect product’: chief executive

Security guards at the drugstore chain, plagued by theft, have been told not to confront shoplifters when they leave without paying, according to a Walgreens executive.

Walgreens, which operates 240 stores in the Big Apple, including Duane Reade, has been riddled with looting to the point that stores have been forced to hide items like toothpaste behind a lock.

The network hired unarmed security guards and on-duty cops, but they didn’t hold back much.

“[Security guards] are not there to protect the product,” said Joseph Stein, Walgreen’s director of asset protection solutions, during the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce’s “Anti-Crime Summit” on Thursday.

“They’re here to de-escalate [a situation] and to protect customers and employees,” he added.

Beauty products are displayed behind closed cabinets.
Retailers are forced to lock up popular items to combat rampant shoplifting in their stores.
UCG/Universal Images Group via G

Walgreens is hiring security guards from Allied Universal, Stein said, adding that the chain also hires off-duty cops “who have different powers” than unarmed security guards.

“When you have five [thieves] in your store on a mission, that’s five for one. And it’s not responsible [to try to stop them]”, Stein said.

A Walgreens spokesperson said in a statement: “The safety of our patients, customers and team members is our top priority. Allied Security and any unarmed security professionals we hire should serve as a deterrent.”

Empty shelves after removing Valentine's Day holiday items, Walgreens, Queens, New York.
The network has hired unarmed security guards and on-duty police officers.
UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

This may be news to shoppers who are surprised to see thieves brazenly walking out the door and security guards seemingly doing nothing to stop them.

“Looks like lately when there’s a robbery going on in the store, the security guards in the store have to just watch what’s going on and wait for the cops to come (after the thieves have left). I keep seeing these videos of someone unarmed just walking into an Apple store, Walmart or whatever, pocketing a few phones and just walking away without being stopped,” a Reddit user wrote last month, prompting 179 replies. .

Stein shed light on another vexing problem for both shoppers and retailers who are besieging rampant crime in their stores.

Toothpaste locked up in a Walgreen store.
According to one Walgreens executive, if these items weren’t locked up, shoppers wouldn’t be able to buy any of the items.
Getty Images

If pharmacy chains hadn’t blocked toothpaste, razor blades and other popular items, Stein said there would be nothing left on the shelves to buy.

Shoppers say they are annoyed by the difficulty of finding a store clerk to open these items, but as retail crime is on the rise across the country and stores are theft on a daily basis, locks are one of the most effective ways to keep items on store shelves for extended periods of time. time. legitimate customers, retailers say.

“The locks work,” Stein said. “When you see that the toothpaste is locked up, nobody wants it, but if we don’t, the product will not be available for purchase. And if you don’t close it [the thieves] know they can come back.”

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