Behavior Assessment Interview (BAI) questions specific to external were also developed. The key to the external BAI questions is that they are all asked in an assumptive tone of prior involvement. In general, the single act offender would detect the assumption that they were involved in prior activity and would deny it. The repeat offender would elicit verbal behavior in response to the assumption.

The assumptive tone that prior thefts are known caused delayed behavior in the dishonest and progressive agitation in the single incident shoplifter. Just as denials grow stronger the longer an honest subject is interviewed, framing the BAI questions assumingly has the same accusatory effect and will weaken the repeat offenders denial and strengthen the single act subject’s denial. This gave the interviewer the behavioral data needed to initiate the external interview or disengage the subject and move onto single incident processing.

The five (5) questions that resulted in the most potent and contrasting behavior between repeat offenders and single act offenders are detailed below:

  1. How do you feel aout what you have been doing?
    • Single Act
      • “What I did was terrible.”
      • “I can’t believe I did this.”
      • “I haven’t been doing this, it is my first time.”
      • “This was so stupid.”
    • Repeat Offender
      • “Terrible.”
      • Nonverbal – shakes head
      • Eyes look downward – internal conversation
      • “It doesn’t really matter now, does it?”
      • Attempts to engage the interviewer in a Q/A
  2. What is the easiest way to steal in our store?
    • Single Act
      • “I don’t know.”
      • “Definitely not this way.”
      • Will assert this is their first time stealing.
      • Will identify the assumption and reassert.
    • Repeat Offender
      • Nonverbal, deep breath, head shake
      • “What do you mean?”
      • Repeats question
      • Will provide details of method or methods.
  3. When did you first think of doing this?
    • Single Act
      • “Just now.”
      • Will show aggravation with self, “This is so stupid.”
      • Will use a metric of the present time, “Ten minutes ago.”
    • Repeat Offender
      • “Today.”
      • “Awhile ago.”
      • “The last time I was in here.”
      • “When my friend mentioned how to do it.”
  4. Why did you pick today?
    • Single Act
      • “I have no idea.”
      • Will seem aggravated
      • Will want the process to be over
    • Repeat Offender
      • Will see them visually creating the answer
      • Will hide their pause with a created job
      • Nonverbal – head shake
      • Will simply not answer the question
  5. What should happen to someone who does something like this?
    • Single Act
      • “I just want this to be over.”
      • Will challenge the interviewer
      • “Why are you asking me this?”
      • Will use consequence words like divorce, arrest, jail, fine
    • Repeat Offender
      • Soften the consequences – “Don’t want to get in trouble.”
      • “Hope nobody finds out”
      • Will attempt to negotiate with the interviewer

The interviewer should also listen for word usage by the subject that infers prior actions vs. single incident. An example would be a single act shoplifter answering the question with: “I feel terrible about what I did”. The repeat offender tends to accept the assumption of prior acts and will simply answer. “Terrible.”

It is not only Organized Retail Crime that has ripped through our industry for large case totals. The rule of numbers would suggest that if an apprehended shoplifter was caught on their third act of theft, the velocity of basic shoplifting activity totaled together would approach Organized Retail Crime Activity or result in a classification of ORC. In order to illuminate the true loss, we need to interview select external theft cases based on their method of operation.

Like other crimes, shoplifters follow a path of basic to more complex and extreme theft techniques. The interviewer should use the subjects’ method of operation to determine the potential for prior admissions. For example, cart roll-outs are the most aggressive technique. This means that the subject has likely been stealing for an extended period of time and has become comfortable in their progression. This would warrant Behavioral questioning and external interviewing tactics.

The results of over 200 external interviews revealed telling data in regards to the progression and habits of non-ORC shoplifters and their technique of choice. Price Switching, Box Stuffing, and Walk Outs produced prior admissions of theft that also involved other techniques. Conceal and Exit cases tended to only produce prior admissions when the quantity of the same items stolen exceeded three.

The Progression Chart Below is a result of information acquired during over 200 interviews by the Author and is an accurate representation of his experience. Individual experiences and information may vary in regards to the progression of shoplifting behavior.

Note: This interview methods contained within this chapter assumes that its reader understands the concepts and theory presented in Wicklander – Zulawski and Associates non-confrontational interview technique. For a further understanding of the Selective Interview, introductory statement, rationalization, submission, and accusation, please refer to Wicklander-Zulawski Practical Aspects of Interview and Interrogation 2nd Edition.


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