Georgia Private Investigators | Employee Theft | Astinel Security & Forensics – Atlanta, GA



Georgia Private Investigators | Employee Theft | Astinel Security & Forensics – Atlanta, GA

Trust to Reduce Theft

An article recently circulated about how a saw mill was losing $1m annually in equipment theft and was considering the installation of a surveillance system. Instead, they enlisted the services of an organizational psychologist. The psychologist determined the employees were stealing for the thrill. The stolen equipment was taking up space in their homes. It was further learned they were plotting to steal the surveillance cameras if installed. Ultimately, the saw mill instituted a “loaner” and anonymous “return” program, and truckloads of equipment were brought back to the company. Wives were thrilled to regain their garage space. The author promoted the concept of reducing the benefits of stealing; that surveillance systems send a message of distrust, etc. This theory has been around for a while and the article received overwhelming accolades from my human resource friends.

The author wanted to focus on the attributes of motivation and leadership. As fraud examiners, we’ve encountered cases of theft by rationalization of a bad boss. We can also confirm the benefits of high morale and the correlation to an honest workforce.

Let’s examine some dynamics which may have been present at the saw mill. Assume management made poor decisions and an adverse culture was in place. Then, one or two employees start to talk about how easy it would be to remove equipment – just for the thrill; and soon other employees join the collusion. Now, they have committed a crime, likely a felony. What explanation did they give their families when the equipment took over their homes? What will happen the next time there is a perceived workplace injustice? There is a need / greed factor which can, and will trump the very best workplace cultures. What happens if employees of the saw mill go to another company? People tend to bring their value systems with them.

I’m happy the saw mill recovered their equipment and management took a turn for the better. But every time an organization swings to the “trust reduces theft” posture or applies a single theory strategy, they are eventually victimized. Personally, I like the “trust but verify” approach.

Georgia Private Investigators Fraud Examiners

Zane Kinney, CFE, PI

6 thoughts on “Georgia Private Investigators | Employee Theft | Astinel Security & Forensics – Atlanta, GA

  1. Zane, Good article that outlines the problem and provides suggestions for solutions. Definitely can relate to employees who steal to get back at ‘bad’ bosses having seen that on more than one occasion with client companies. I agree with ‘trust but verify’ approach!

  2. I like to trust people but I am definitely in the trust but verify camp. My old boss, a former law enforcement officer, used to quote “15% of people would steal at every opportunity, 15% would never steal, for the remaining 70% it depended upon what the opportunity was.” It is the responsibility of management to minimize opportunities. When a theft is suspected it should be resolved and the contributing factors eliminated. Good accounting and inventory management practices are essential.

  3. With almost forty years in law enforcement and security, I can attest to the truth of such events. It is amazing at times the thought process of those who rationalize their actions. This article helps to underscore that the concept of security and asset protection must be 360 degrees because the threats to the security of a company come from every possible direction with every type of motivator.

  4. I also agree that “trust but verify” is essential….and like Jesse I also have seen the bell curve on theft, but I was taught the 10% will steal, !0% will not and the other 80% dependent upon the organizational culture….the key is as always identifying the 10% that will and dealing with them as soon as possible. While “bad management decisions” can at times accelerate thefts the truth is that they can and will happen even in the best run companies… not only is the inventory management critical so is the employee selection process, established standards for employee morale and review processes and open communication between management and employees at every level. In EVERY theft situation I have investigated there was at least one breakdown in these areas.

  5. Dr. Riggs you are so correct. A 360 integrated platform must be in place with appropriate follow up and measurement.

  6. I found this story interesting, but somewhat of an anomaly. I can see employees stealing something for the thrill of it, however, they steal, NOT so much because they WANT to, but because the CAN and feel they will not get caught. While I do not disagree with the approach of reducing the “benefits” of stealing, I think a more logical approach is to remove the temptation to steal. This can be accomplished several ways. One is, perceived detection. If somebody who was temped to remove the machinery was inclined to believe they would be caught, they would most likely not carry through with the act. If a perpetrator is embezzling to satisfy a condition or need, such as needing extra money due to a gambling or drug habit, I cannot see how the “benefit” of having the extra money can be reduced, but the organization can take steps to reduce the temptation. On the other hand, if an astute organization, who has been trained to recognize the common red flags of fraud realizes that one of their employees has a problem with addiction or otherwise, they can act and come to the assistance of that employee before he or she turns satisfying their need for money by stealing from their employer. This would be the proactive approach and one that I would always recommend.

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