The largest home improvement retailer in the US is taking a significant stand against professional shoplifters by unveiling power tools that won't work unless scanned and activated via Bluetooth technology, according to Bussiness Insider.
Home Depot has been struggling with "organized retail crime," raiding its stores across the country and stealing millions of dollars worth of power tools. Thieves steal Milwaukee, DeWalt, and Bosche, among other power tools, and turn them around for quick cash on the street, pawnshops, or an online ad on Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist.
Scott Glenn, Home Depot's vice president of asset protection, told Insider that introducing the new power tools that won't work if stolen is to combat "professional shoplifters" who are usually connected to a more extensive crime network.
"There are very organized groups where the leaders at the top are recruiting people that are drug-dependent, homeless, or down on their luck and offering them incentives and providing shopping lists to go out and bring back certain products," Glenn said. "At the top levels of these hierarchies, there are absolutely good administrators that understand the return on their money."
Home Depot has locked many of its high-value power tools behind display cases or will only display store models on the floor while keeping the valuable merchandise locked in the back storage to deter criminals. The company found this wasn't enough and partnered with suppliers to add an internal activation switch.
Glenn said the new activation feature would allow the company to combat theft without changing the shopping experience. He said the company had to get its suppliers, vendor partners, and internal IT team on board and has rolled out the new feature at a handful of stores.
Glenn provided limited details about the mechanics of the activation switch. However, hardware hacking website Hackaday wrote:
We would be really interested in getting our hands on one of these power tools to see what this kill switch looks like and how it works. Something like a Bluetooth activated relay is one option, or maybe even something that is integrated directly in the motor controller. If it were up to use, we would probably pick something that receives power wirelessly using a coil and requires a unique code. For their sake, we hope it's not something that can be deactivated with just a large magnet.
Home Depot is hoping the new activation feature will channel criminals elsewhere. But we find it troubling that criminals will eventually find a work-around.
In liberal cities such as San Francisco, it's only a misdemeanor to steal less than $950 worth of goods, a wrist-slap that's encouraged, forcing some retailers to flee the metro area.