Merchants Seek Security Advice

Consultant Asked to Speak About Shoplifting

Harvard Business merchants are calling on a Framingham security consultant firm to help them deal with their ever-present shoplifting problem, merchants said this week.

The Harvard Square Business Association, whose members consist of half of the retailers and restaraunts in the Square, have called in Herbert Bearak, president of Stop-Loss Associates Incorporated, to address the Association at a February 15 luncheon at the Sheraton Commander Hotel. Entitled "Loss Prevention: A Positive Approach," the luncheon will provide Square merchants with helpful hints for preventing shoplifting.

In addition, the luncheon is only the first step for many merchants. Bearak said he has already been hired as a private consultant by several Square store-owners.

All this, Association officials said, is a direct response to alarming crime statistics recently provided by local police. The Association says that police statistics showed that 45 robberies and 245 larcenies took place last year in the Square and surrounding merchant community alone.

"I feel that it's necessary to find out why there were so many larcenies last year, and find out what we can do to stop this alarming trend," said Sally R. Acorn, who is executive director of the Association.

One of the subjects Bearak will address is preventing shoplifting by providing more customer service.

"You can increase shoplifter awareness." said Bearak "Most customer pilferage reacts to customers being ignored by salespersons."

Berak also said local businesses can stymie crime by giving potential thieves little opportunity to steal. Bearak said he recommends that merchants arrange their stores so that employees can better see their customers. Bearak said he will also recommend better employees surveillance of dressing rooms, where much shoplifting occurs.

"Every merchant has security staff and they are his employees," Bearak said "but you just have to train them.

Local merchants agree, and said they are eager to try new some new ideas.

"A week doesn't go by buy that someone doesn't try to steal a magazine." said Fred Cohen, stand manager of the Out-of-Town News and one of the Association's directors. "It's good to have one of these speakers to enlighten the retail community."

And even at the Harvard Coop, which is already equipped with close circuit surveillance and extensive personnel, security officers are still looking for better ways to fight shoplifting.

"Shoplifting has always been a problem, and will always be a problem, and will always be a problem," said Dawn Krasinsky, the Coop's security chief. "Harvard Square is a pretty tight-net community and we work closely and maintain efforts to communicate well. "We got to get back to the old neighborhood theory: Help your neighbor."

Cambridge police officials did not return phone calls yesterday.