Privatization

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Did you know Target has its own crime lab?

Target got into forensics as a way to combat shoplifting and such crimes but has taken its skills far beyond the department store. Its seven-person team of investigators, most of them former law enforcement officials, spend 70% of their time fighting theft, fraud and personal injury cases involving Target's 1,600 stores. But the lab is also frequently tapped by city, state and federal law-enforcement agencies, including the Los Angeles Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, to solve big cases….

Target installed cameras in most of its stores in the 1980s, but that wasn't enough to really make a dent in store thefts. "We had a volume of evidence from our cameras but no expertise," says Fredrick Lautenbach, the retailer's crime lab manager. He says the company also didn't want to rely on overburdened police departments to help it solve problems with theft. In 2003 the company created its lab…

[I]t decided to largely limit its volunteer work to cases involving murder, sexual assault or armed robbery. It doesn't charge for its services but asks police departments to donate a patch when it helps them out. It has 136 on display in its main office in Brooklyn Park, Minn.

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  1. You might want to check Reason’s archives, I recall seeing a story on this around a year ago.

  2. Same here Taktix but I am trying to find it.

  3. and having no luck.

    Damn Enter key.

  4. Radley posted about it less than two months ago.

  5. And some call Wal*Mart & Disney evil!?!?!?

    JK, I am all for private security on your own property and for helping out the community on a truly voluntary basis when you can.

  6. How long before Target gets its own cop drama on TV?

    Law and Order: Bed & Bath Department.

    I bet they’re fitting Dennis Farina with a red vest right now.

  7. This is a very old story.

    Guy, what about this comes off as evil? If anything, this is a demonstration of private crime investigation working better than publicly-funded investigation. I don’t recall anything about how Target got special privileges or immunities from this. If anything, Target is saving taxpayer money by taking responsibility for investigating their own losses.

  8. This kind of thing is happening or being noticed more and more often. PayPal’s early anti-fraud analysis tools are credited with helping them efficiently succeed where others consistently failed. Their software tools are becoming popular with investigators of all stripes. See this.

  9. Rimfax,
    Guy’s comment utilized a misspelled version of the common internet abbreviation j/k which is short for “Just Kidding”.

  10. “It has 136 on display in its main office in Brooklyn Park, Minn.”

    Target’s ,ain office is in downtown Minneapolis (unless the story was referencing the crime lab’s main offices)

  11. TY Kwix, and if the entire comment is read, oh, never mind, seems the important people read it all 🙂

  12. Thanks, Kwix. Sorry, Guy.

  13. Gahan,

    Law and Order: Bed & Bath Department Lingerie Department.

    Fixed

  14. Old story or not- I have to admit that this is pretty awesome. I am waiting for the inevitable Steven Seagal movie about it. Probably going to be called something like ‘Blood Target: Superstore’, and have lots of beatin’ up on them minorities. It’s good the kids have someone to look up to.

  15. Target should go back to France where they belong.

  16. That was great.

  17. Same old story. Big box store now putting mom & pop crimelabs out of business.

  18. Target should go back to France where they belong.

    Just like the Statue of Liberty!

  19. [I]t decided to largely limit its volunteer work to cases involving murder, sexual assault or armed robbery.

    That is pretty close to the only things government should be focused on (minus defense and protecting private property)….funny that they need the help of Target to get these basic services met but somehow have plenty or resources to tackle global warming and combating income inequality.

  20. I see she got some great deals on merchandise….*prolonged pause, puts on sunglasses*….but it put a Target on her back. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEYYYYYYYYYYYHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

  21. When they sent us the Statue of Liberty, France was a country of free, Christian men.

  22. “When they sent us the Statue of Liberty, France was a country of free, Christian men.”

    Larry Craig’s dream nation.

  23. FWIW, retail theft is an increasingly serious problem – for mass merchandisers in particular. Also, in the last 15 years its gotten more organized and complex… a story on it =

    http://www.csoonline.com/article/221140

    I’d think from libertarian POV, having a private security team specializing in a business risk area would be considered sensible and appropriate – as long as they dont assume some sort of actual ‘police’ role and try and usurp authorities/jurisdiction from real cops.

  24. Neil | May 16, 2008, 5:04pm | #

    When they sent us the Statue of Liberty, France was a country of free, Christian men.

    bow chicka wow waaa

    And we hadnt yet been overrun by those goddamn bloodsucking immigrants! Oh, to pine for the better days… Maybe we should change the torch to a “papers please!” sign Neil? That’d show em.

  25. Maybe we should change the torch to a “papers please!

    And we can replace the “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

    with “No Non Christian or Brown People allowed” ?

  26. When they sent us the Statue of Liberty, France was a country of free, Christian men.

    Well, except for Algeria.

    Which was at the time as intergral part of france (a departement) as Hawaii or Alaska are today part of the US.

  27. Rimfax, I’m not sure that “the police find them useful” actually constitutes “working better”. There’s nothing here to indicate that this lab follows any kind of rigorous forensics practices.

    The lab is perhaps best known for its ability to pick up details from surveillance camera footage . . . . also “Target investigators can work more quickly.”

    Details that no one else can pick up, I’ll bet, and which (I speculate) perhaps the police ask them to find in advance. Can they find obscure bite marks as well?

  28. Are there any Target’s in whatever state (brainfart) that F’ed up coronor is in? Just a thought…

  29. I’d think from libertarian POV, having a private security team specializing in a business risk area would be considered sensible and appropriate – as long as they dont assume some sort of actual ‘police’ role and try and usurp authorities/jurisdiction from real cops.

    Actually, what they are doing is more consistent with early American ideas about police power than what we have now. They mess up, you can bring legal action against them, none of the (almost unconditional) immunity that cops now have. I’d much rather deal with Target security than with real cops as the Target security folks might actually have to care about rights…

  30. I’d much rather deal with Target security than with real cops as the Target security folks might actually have to care about rights…

    Yeah, Target can’t hold me without charging me for 72 hours. They can’t get a judge to rubber stamp a warrant based on a “confidential informant”. They can’t send black masked troops to storm my house at 2 AM. They can’t really do anything to me at all unless I willingly cooperate with them.

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