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A systematic review of tagging as a method to reduce theft in retail environments

Sidebottom, A; Thornton, A; Tompson, L; Belur, J; Tilley, N; Bowers, K; (2017) A systematic review of tagging as a method to reduce theft in retail environments. [Review]. Crime Science , 6 (7) 10.1186/s40163-017-0068-y. Green open access

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Background: Retailers routinely use security tags to reduce theft. Presently, however, there has been no attempt to systematically review the literature on security tags. Guided by the acronym EMMIE, this paper set out to (1) examine the evidence that tags are effective at reducing theft, (2) identify the key mechanisms through which tags are expected to reduce theft and the conditions that moderate tag effectiveness, and (3) summarise information relevant to the implementation and economic costs of tagging. Methods: In this mixed-methods review, we performed systematic keyword searches of the published and unpublished literature, hand searched relevant journals, conducted forward and backward citation searches and consulted with four retailers. Studies were included if they reported an explicit goal of reducing the theft or shrinkage of items through the use of security tags in retail environments. Results: We identified 50 eligible studies, eight of which reported quantitative data on the effectiveness of tags in retail environments. Across these eight studies, five showed positive results associated with the introduction of tags, but heterogeneity in the type of tag and reported outcome measures precluded a meta-analysis. We identified three mechanisms through which tags might plausibly reduce theft-increase the risks, reduce the rewards, increase the effort-which were found to vary by tag type, and their activation dependent on five broad categories of moderator: retail store and staff, customers (including shoplifters), tag type, product type, and the involvement of the police and criminal justice system. Implementation challenges documented in the literature related mainly to staffing issues and tagging strategy. Finally, although estimates are available on the costs of tagging, our searches identified no highquality published economic evaluations of tagging. Conclusions: Through applying the EMMIE framework this review highlighted the complexity involved in security tagging in retail environments, whereby different kinds of tags are expected to reduce theft through different casual mechanisms which are dependent on a distinctive configuration of conditions. Based on the available evidence it is difficult to determine the effectiveness of tags as a theft reduction measure, albeit there is suggestive evidence that more visible tags are associated with greater reductions in theft than less visible tags.

Type: Article
Title: A systematic review of tagging as a method to reduce theft in retail environments
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1186/s40163-017-0068-y
Publisher version: http://doi.org/10.1186/s40163-017-0068-y
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author(s) 2017. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science > Dept of Security and Crime Science
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1559054
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