Teachout Security Solutions


Security in the Retail Environment

Background and Threat

While the wars between Israel and Hamas and Russia and Ukraine continue to escalate, the threat of terrorist attacks in the United States has never been higher. The immigrant surge across our southern border of military-age males, coupled with the increased support of Hamas on college campuses and city streets, make up the perfect storm for terrorist attacks. Most of the single-actor terror events in the United States have been perpetrated with firearms. Nidal Hasan, Fort Hood, 2009; Omar Mateen, Pulse Nightclub, 2016; and Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, San Bernardino, 2015, all committed their attacks with firearms.

Terrorism is defined as “the unlawful use, or threat to use violence and fear to achieve political or ideological goals” (fbi.gov, 2023). Terrorist acts are designed to maximize casualties and promote fear on the largest scale possible. The larger the body count, the larger the media coverage and desired impact. The weapon of choice for accomplishing this is the Improvised Explosive Device or IED. The IED can be easily constructed, and the materials utilized can be found on the shelves of many retail stores. These products are in everyday use and require no identification or specialized permits to purchase. Recipes on how to “cook” these products to make explosive materials can be found on the internet and YouTube. The Boston Marathon Bombers, Dzhokhar and Tamerian Tsamaev, used kitchen pressure cookers filled with explosives and nails. This method was promoted in the Al-Qaeda digital magazine “Inspire.”

Retail store employees and loss prevention security can play a significant role in the early identification of would-be terrorist actors. Several indicators can be recognized if employees and security personnel are properly trained. Retailers and security providers should have policies on how and to whom these suspicious activities are reported.

Retail Employees and Security Guards

Well-trained employees and security guards can be alerted to the following indicators.

  • Understand what products they sell that can be utilized for manufacturing explosives.
  •  Watch for a higher frequency or volume of purchases that are not normal when the product is used as intended.
  •  Large cash transactions.
  •  Attempts by the purchaser to conceal their identity, sunglasses, hats, and avoidance of surveillance cameras.
  •  Track inventory to account for missing or stolen sensitive products.
  •  Timely reporting to supervisors and law enforcement officials can make a difference in preventing a terrorist act.

Does Your Business Stock These Items?

  • Smokeless powders
  • Acetones and peroxide
  • Potassium nitrates or perchlorates
  • Fine metal powders like aluminum and magnesium
  • Oxidized fuels
  • Charcoal and sulfur
  • 20 lb. propane tanks

Recognizing items that can be utilized for making explosive devices, along with timely reporting to supervisors and law enforcement officials can make a difference in preventing a terrorist act.

Author: Michael Morgan MA., Doctoral Candidate, Teachout Security Solutions Training & Corporate Compliance Officer

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