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I Am A Security Guard: My First Stakeout

A two-man crew started boosting goods from my store several weeks ago.

They had struck three days in a row, taking shampoo and aspirin right after my shift ended.

The store's review of surveillance video revealed an especially brazen stunt: One man simply stuffed a few big bottles of shampoo inside his shirt and strolled past a cashier.

Most likely the thieves were drug users trying to earn money for their addiction. Some shoplifters sell items to discount stores and pedestrians on the cheap. Eventually, they earn enough to score dope.

My store has one advantage: many shoplifters get greedy and stupid. They keep coming back for more loot, thinking the store's employees won't catch them. Then they get busted. It's only a matter of time.

Thus the store took action on a recent Sunday morning. With about 45 minutes before the end of my shift, another guard walked into the store and sat with the assistant manager in the main office. About ten minutes later, the Head Guard stopped in and joined them. Afterward, the first guard told me to camp in the office. He explained that the guards wanted the thieves to think I had left. My first stakeout had just begun.

Despite the urgency of the situation, we did not resemble the hard-bitten crew from Law & Order.

I kept looking at the security monitor. But because I could not identify the thieves, my eyes darted from shopper to shopper. Eventually, I got bored.

The assistant manager kept grinning like a schoolboy sneaking a peek in the girls' locker room. He's the same manager who tackled a drunken cigarette thief a few months ago. He looked pumped for another fight.

The first guard, a short bachelor, kept talking about his new girlfriend. Apparently, another guy had called him to scare him away from her. The guard claimed he threatened to kick the caller's ass and forced him to apologize.

The Head Guard, a heavyset father of two, listened with an occasional chuckle.

As time passed, I noticed that none of the other men looked at the monitor very much. I stopped thinking about Law & Order and started recalling The Sopranos. In one memorable episode, mob chief Tony Soprano pays back Big Pussy Bonpensiero for working with the feds. Soprano invites Bonpensiero on a boat ride with other members of their gang. They confront Big Pussy, shoot him and dump his body into the water.

An ugly thought came to mind: I was in big trouble. Maybe my company thought I had helped the thieves and set me up for the kill. Several facts helped fuel my paranoia. The first guard had told me to report to the main office; he's the same guard who busted my predecessor for shoplifting. The thefts took place right after my shift. Finally, I was relatively new to the store. Perhaps I was Big Pussy.

Armed with this insight, I thought one aspect of my job performance would save me. I usually don't smile or chat with customers who make me suspicious or uncomfortable. That may help me avoid getting caught on video chatting with a perp. Of course, I come across like a jerk to many shoppers. But I have to protect myself.

As the time for my shift wound down, I snuck peeks around the main office. No one paid me much attention. That did not calm me.

Finally, quitting time arrived. Following procedure, I opened my backpack for inspection. The assistant manager peeked inside and said, "Okay." I caught a bus and headed home.

A few days later, the Nice Cashier stopped me when I reported for work. She asked: "Did you hear what happened?" I said no. She told me the Head Guard busted one of the thieves that morning. Apparently, the Head Manager stopped in the store early and spotted the crook near the shampoo. The manager recognized him from the surveillance tape. The manager alerted the Head Guard, who grabbed the thief. The guard dragged his prey into the main office, handcuffed him, took his picture and held him for the cops.

I walked to the office and looked at the photo. The shoplifter did not look like a smooth criminal. Instead, his mouth had curved downward with sorrow. His eyes had a red tinge. Tears streaked down his face. Just another scared loser who had rolled the dice one time too many.

Normally, tears generate some sympathy from me. But not this time, given my previous anxiety. Instead I felt a cold sense of satisfaction. Justice had prevailed.


A very pseudononymous Jerome Haller earns rent money as a security guard for a large, publicly-held retail chain.


See more tales of security guarding, pizzeria waitressing, barista-ing and office drudgering in the Life at Work collection.


Posted on September 15, 2009

MUSIC - Chief Keef Changed The Industry.
TV - Vizio's Best Product Is You.
POLITICS - UIC: Soda Taxes Work.
SPORTS - More McCaskey Malpractice.

BOOKS - All About Poop.


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