Retailers enlist police-like body cams to catch thieves

One of America's major retailers with three famous chains of stores is enlisting police-proven technology to blunt the hundred billion-dollar-plus annual loss from shoplifters and organized criminals.  

Some TJ Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods employees are now wearing police-like body cameras to stop rampant theft.

The parent company of those stores, TJX, Is hoping the cameras will help de-escalate incidents.

"I mean it benefits everybody really if they can cut down on the organized crime and retail theft that's been going on," said shopper Gillian Barry of Alameda.

But not everyone agrees. 

"I don't necessarily think it will help much in terms of preventing crime, but it might just help with prosecuting honestly. I feel if people, if they're in need of something, they're gonna take it" said Israel Jones of Alameda.

The cameras will be worn specifically by loss prevention associates who've gone through thorough training on its use, TJX said.

In a survey by the National Retail Federation last year, 35% of major chains said they were researching body cameras for crime prevention.

TJX finance chief John Klinger disclosed the body-camera initiative on an earnings call last month, CNN reported.

"It’s almost like a de-escalation, where people are less likely to do something when they’re being videotaped," he said.

One TJ Maxx retail worker in Florida told CNN that body cameras were "just for show" and their presence did not make employees feel any safer.

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. "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.

Security experts told KTVU that there are downsides to the cameras: professional criminals are not intimidated or deterred by body cams, the cameras do not necessarily prevent assaults, many folks believe the justice system will just let thieves go, and some honest customers may be offended by the body cams. 

Video footage is only shared upon request by law enforcement or in response to a subpoena.  

"We hope that these body cameras will help us de-escalate incidents, deter crime, and demonstrate to our Associates and customers that we take safety in our stores seriously," TJX said.

"This is an issue that the industry, that our lawmakers, our local communities…the Department of Homeland Security, we need to work together to solve this issue because we need to keep prices low for our customers," Walmart CEO John Ferner said.

In other words: marshal the forces, protect the price of home goods and do it to the max.