Theft Investigations

Corporate theft, employee theft, embezzlement


Theft is a threat to companies of all shapes and sizes and is most devastating when being committed internally as it is often the most difficult to identify. Many companies tolerate a small amount of theft because it is too difficult to prove and too expensive to investigate, it is not until the value increases that they seek external help. The problem is that the individuals committing the theft will often become more confident in their actions and if one member of the team feels they can get away with it then the mentality will likely spread to others.

Many companies are disappointed with the level of support they receive from the police when trying to tackle corporate theft but we must remember that what we are dealing with is essentially an internal issue and the police don’t have the time or the resources to launch an investigation into a crime many would deem as victimless.

The common misconception however is that you cannot launch an investigation yourself or with the assistance of a third party investigator, this is not correct. As an employer you are within your rights to launch an investigation and even use hidden cameras without informing staff providing what you are doing is deemed reasonable and the cause is justifiable.

Theft Investigations

When gathering intelligence it is important to understand what is legal and what can be done according to pieces of legislation such as ‘The Human Rights Act’ and ‘RIPA The regulatory Investigation of Persons at Work Act’. All investigatory work conducted and all evidence obtained will be done so in accordance with the law.


Case Study

One of the directors at a warehousing company notices that a particular piece of stock has gone missing, after looking into the incident they discover that there is no justification; e.g. No damaged goods or errors in stock take. He decides to keep the issue to himself but monitors the stock for the next few weeks, shortly after the next delivery he notices that the incident has occurred again so brings it up with another director.

They decide that the culprit(s) must be leaving some of the items from the delivery at the loading bay and collecting it as they leave the premises. The only logical way they can think of proving this would be to put a hidden camera in the loading bay, but they are concerned that if they notify the staff then the culprit(s) will take more care in hiding it and they will not find out whose responsible.

They contact us and explain the situation so we offer to send a detective to the premises for a meeting, we agree that the best thing to do would be to send the detective in under the pretence they were a safety inspector so they could take a look at the loading bay without raising any suspicion.
Our detective arrives at the premises and conducts a Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA); this assessment allows our detective to decide what would be a proportionate response to the problem and also to identify and minimise the privacy risks of the project. Once the assessment has been conducted the detective explains their findings to the directors and suggests the best solution to solve their problem.

Fact: When it comes to the use of hidden, or covert, CCTV cameras in the workplace, the CCTV Code Of Practice says that they must not be used as a run-of-the-mill exercise, i.e. as a means to spy on staff, which would be an unlawful (and potentially criminal) act. However, hidden CCTV cameras are justifiable where: (1) the employer suspects that a specific crime, e.g. theft, is being committed; and (2) it intends to involve the police.

The directors agree that they are happy to proceed and arrange the installation to be carried out at a point when the loading bay is closed so that no staff present. The morning after the next delivery the directors watch the footage back and confirm their suspicions, the culprits were leaving part of the delivery outside the loading bay hidden by a few pallets then collecting them as they made their way back to their vehicles to leave.

A disciplinary hearing was held in which the culprits were questioned about the incident; both denied any knowledge of such theft until shown the footage. They were both dismissed and the directors decided to press criminal charges so the footage was handed to the police and used as evidence.

Rather than removing the cameras completely the directors decided to replace them with clearly visible cameras and put signage in the loading bay to alert staff to the cameras presence and prevent further incidents from occurring.

Further Reading: Surveillance Camera Code Of Practice


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