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Store Detective


Most stores have detectives. These people are there for security reasons, and are employed by stores and department stores to monitor the staff and customers for suspicious behavior. Often, they are in regular everyday clothing, pretending to be shopping, just like the rest of us. However, instead of looking at shoes or contemplating buying magazines, these detectives are making sure none of us misbehave.

Unexpected things can happen at any time, and it is the store detective's responsibility to intervene in these sticky situations. They keep an eye on the store, the washrooms, the parking lots and even the change rooms, to stop people from shoplifting, or to apprehend people who try using false checks or stolen credit cards. They catch and detain the suspects, holding them in their office until the police are notified and arrive. A store detective can also make the choice about whether or not to press charges. If it is a shoplifter's first offense, the store may let them off with a warning and a ban from that shop.

Store detectives work alone, or along with other detectives and security guards. They may be employed by the company or organization they are monitoring, but more often than not, store detectives work on contract to a company, as employees of an agency.

Unlike police, store detectives are not authorized to make arrests. Therefore, they must be ready and willing to keep the suspect on site until police arrives. They should also have a minimum of first aid, as in an emergency, they may have to monitor the injured until help arrives. They will also be required to write detailed follow-up reports, especially if they encounter a difficult situation which may be taken to court, or may need to be brought to a superior's attention.
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  Average Earnings  
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Median Salary:
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  Interests and Skills  
Interested in a career in security? Store detectives need excellent communication skills, and they must be very observant. They must be able to work independently, and be confident in their abilities to take control of situations, in order to protect property and other staff. They should be able to think clearly and function under pressure, as well as be able to remain alert even after hours of inaction. They must be honest, reliable and neat in appearance. A second language is an asset.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Monitor the comings and goings of store parking lots, entranceways, checkouts, change rooms
  • Detain suspects
  • Decide whether or not to press charges
  • Alert police, fire, or paramedics, as the case may be
  • Complete follow-up reports
  • Give evidence in court
  • The typical day for a store detective involve lots of pretend shopping. They will "browse" the merchandise, all the while watching the customers and sometimes the staff for suspicious behavior. They will work monitoring the store alone, or alongside other security personnel. The day may involve no incidents, but they may catch one or more shoppers red-handed in one day. Each day will involve writing up reports, especially detailed ones when suspects are apprehended.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Store detectives can work in large department stores alongside a number of security workers, or they may work independently in smaller shops. They may be employed by the managers of a mall or shopping complex to monitor a number of stores in the same area. They may be employed by the store itself, but more likely they will be working for the store on contract, hired out by an agency. Depending on the type of store, the work could be outside or inside, and it might involve late nights and weekend work.

  Long Term Career Potential  
A store detective can work up to supervisor or head of agency, or may choose to move on and start their own agency. They may choose to move on to security guard work, or go back to school and join the police force, the fire department, the military, or find work with a correctional institution.

  Educational Paths  
Store detectives require some high school - a diploma is recommended but not always required. They can also get a community college diploma, or a university degree, focusing in both cases on law, security, sociology, criminology, or psychology.

In most cases, security guards must be bondable, able to speak and write English, be at least 18 years old, have good character references, no police record, and be in good health. They may also need to have valid first aid and CPR certificates, a valid driver's license and their own mode of transportation. They may also be required to have their fingerprints checked with the police before they begin work.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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