JCPenney Store Houses High-Tech Center to Combat Organized Crime

A Chicago-area JCPenney store is providing space for an operations and training center dedicated to combating organized crime, including retail theft and public safety threats. The 5,500-square-foot facility, located in the North Riverside, IL Mall, will assist the Cook County Regional Organized Crime (CCROC) task force when it goes live next month.

While there have been many task forces to address organized retail crime, which the National Retail Federation estimates costs business up to $30 billion annually, this is the first one fully housed in a retail space, according to Mark Van Beest, director of global security and operations for JCPenney. The center will be housed in a non-sales space above the store.

"It's a large dedicated operations center that's specific to working ongoing cases, and it also provides training venues," Van Beest told RIS News. "It will be a place where retailers and all types of law enforcement agencies can collaborate because it puts everybody together."

He stressed that organized crime cases are far more complex and costly than those of everyday shoplifters. "They can stretch into months, sometimes years, before getting a resolution, so having a task force in place is invaluable to all retailers," says Van Beest. "Other retailers can come and go as they need to, as well as multiple law enforcement agencies can all collaborate and share intelligence. So if CVS, Target or Walgreens has a case they need to work together on for an extended period of time, this would be the place to do it."

The center will use a range of technology, including the Real-Time Crime Center solution from Motorola Solutions, which brings together streaming video, incident and criminal complaints, as well as access to arrest records, photos, multi-media inputs and other data sources.

The solution can take data from multiple collection points, including both public and private video cameras, and "apply intelligence and escalate the prioritization of information for an incident that may be happening at any given moment," said Greg Billings, vice president of global solution sales, Motorola Solutions. "It can be shared across officials involved in public safety as well as loss prevention. Information on an individual, a car, the use of a credit card or other financial information can be proactively pushed out to the appropriate individuals in the retail operation, in some cases via mobile devices, so they can be on the lookout."

The operations center represents the first time some of the technology that had been used in one operational silo, such as for public safety, will be used in collaboration across this public-private partnership.

"There was a real vacuum for something like this," says Van Beest. "On the retail side, we can all be very competitive, but it's much different on the loss prevention/asset protection side of the business. We all share bad guys, so it makes complete sense where we can work together and collaborate to bring these cases to fruition and get good solid prosecutions."

Law enforcement agencies that will work out of the facility will include the state's attorney's office, the Illinois State police, the Chicago police department and the U.S. Secret Service. The CCROC organization includes over 1,000 members, including 140 federal, state and local law enforcement agencies and 120 private companies, including retailers.

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