Shoplifting continues to grow nationally, facial recognition may help

Mar 20, 2023, 3:00 PM | Updated: 3:00 pm

As shoplifting is on the rise in the United States, retailers small and large look into using facia...

In this July 30, 2019, photo, Paul Hildreth, emergency operations coordinator for the Fulton County School District, works in the emergency operations center at the Fulton County School District Administration Center in Atlanta. Artificial Intelligence is transforming surveillance cameras from passive sentries into active observers that can immediately spot a gunman, alert retailers when someone is shoplifting and help police quickly find suspects. Schools, such as the Fulton County School District, are among the most enthusiastic adopters of the technology. (AP Photo/Cody Jackson)

(AP Photo/Cody Jackson)

SALT LAKE CITY — Shoplifting has proven to be a major issue not only in Utah but in the United States as a whole. 

Dave Noriega and Debbie Dujanovic, with D2 on KSL Newsradio, discuss the growing issue and possible solutions on their latest episode with Jim Ryan, ABC News Correspondent in Dallas.

Ryan said the main takeaway is companies need to figure out a way to curb shoplifting, especially the habitual ones.

According to Ryan, companies should turn to technological advancements. 

“Dropping in and taking a look at technology, that’s what stores both large and small are doing now,” Ryan told Dave and Dujanovic. 

Ryan further explains that the need for this comes from the growing number of theft costs.

Theft is on the rise, facial recognition can help

Specifically, the National Retail Federation reported $95 billion in theft at retailers in 2021. That number is a 4% increase from the previous year. Numbers for the 2022 year have not been released.

“A lot of it is policy in some communities, they’ve reduced the penalties, they’ve raised the bar for misdemeanor crimes, that is ticket-able offenses, you walk in, you steal less than $1000 worth of stuff, then your hit with a ticket. You’re not going to jail, there won’t be any sort of long-term impact, even on your legal status,” Ryan said. 

Therefore, large and small companies are implementing facial recognition in stores to combat the growing number of theft. 

“Now they’re equipping [security cameras] with facial recognition,” Ryan tells Dave and Dujanovic. 

Facial recognition gives retailers a better chance of catching someone shoplifting by being able to recognize and record who enters and leaves the store chronologically. 

“At a local retailer, somebody tries to come in and they’ve previously stolen something from that store, the security might say you can’t come,” said Ryan. 

Therefore, not only would facial recognition stop shoplifters in their tracks but would act as a preventative measure as well. That said, Ryan said the technology isn’t full-proof. 

“It can make mistakes, it could mistake you for me or me for you,” he said. 

Privacy advocates have an issue with their photos being in a giant database or criminal computer. 

Another issue people are concerned with, regarding the technology, is racial bias. 

“It may pick up on somebody’s skin color, or may look at different features of that person and base it purely on race. Black and Hispanic people have been dealing with this kind of thing for decades. Walking into a store and being followed around by security,” Ryan told Dave and Dujanovic. 

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Shoplifting continues to grow nationally, facial recognition may help