Crime-fighting fog hits shoplifters as retail theft spirals out of control

Stores across country lost billions in retail theft last year, according to Capital One Shopping Research

A disorienting and blinding fog connected to a store's alarm is a relatively new security measure to stop would-be thieves as organized retail crime spirals out of control.

The technology, which was created by DensityUSA, is already in use in several countries in the European Union and Australia but is becoming more prevalent in the U.S., said Mike Egel, president of DensityUSA.

Stores lost an estimated $86.6 billion to retail theft in 2022, and projections indicate that amount may reach $115 billion in 2025, according to Capital One Shopping Research.

"I think the COVID-19 pandemic tore the social and economic fabric of America," Egel told Fox News Digital. "Pre-pandemic, crime was on the decline. But when the nation shut down and the economy stepped backwards, common sense went to an all-time low. And sadly, crime rose and continues to grow."

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Fog in gun store

Fog begins to flood a gun store after the alarm is tripped. (DensityUSA)

Example of fog as crime deterrent by DensityUSA

This is what would-be thieves would see within seconds of tripping an alarm. (DensityUSA / Fox News)

Businesses have been forced to hide products behind registers or lock them up in glass cases to protect their inventory.

That hasn't stopped orchestrated smash-and-grab robberies in which thieves execute intricate plots to grab as many items as possible and leave before witnesses get a good look or police respond.

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Egel said there was one instance in the United Kingdom where a truck took out the entire front of a jewelry store, but the fog covered the 900-square-foot space in less than five seconds.

"Once it's activated, the DensityUSA system creates a dense fog with near-zero visibility conditions in just seconds," Egel said. "The fog is designed to be dense and disorientating to deter an intruder from following through with their intentions."

In the case of the U.K. jewelry store, the thieves came away empty-handed, he said: "Thieves can’t steal what they can’t see."

Example of fog as crime deterrent by DensityUSA

Fog floods a gun store after the alarm is tripped. (DensityUSA)

The company is based in St. Louis, but the European Union was the first to approve the fog machine as a crime deterrent.

After seeing its success, Egel said he and his business partner, Scott Bader, introduced their security measure to the United States, which is used in stores in a handful of states.

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"After seeing the rise in crime across the United States and billions of dollars lost to intrusions, including burglaries, riots and looting, we partnered with our colleagues in the European Union to bring Density Global to the U.S. as DensityUSA," Egel said.

"The system can be used in all retail settings, from clothing stores and pharmacies to cannabis stores, from convenience stores to gun shops."

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Reports of soaring retail loss 

A 2022 report from the Retail Security Survey found $94.5 billion in losses in 2021 because of shrink – losses coming from causes other than sales – which includes shoplifting and damaged products.

That's up from $90.8 billion in 2020.

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"The study found that, similar to the last five years, the average shrink rate in 2021 was 1.4%," according to the study.

Organized retail crime, which increased on average by 26.5% in 2021, is the driving force, the study says.

On average, respondents reported inventory shrink of 1.4%. This is in line with the five-year average of 1.5%. When taken as a percentage of total retail sales, retail shrink represented $94.5 billion in losses in 2021. (Retail Security Survey / Fox News)

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Retailers, on average, saw a 26.5% increase in organized retail crime (ORC).

"Eight in 10 retailers surveyed report that the violence and aggression associated with ORC incidents increased in the past year," the 2022 Retail Security Survey says.

"The current climate of active assailants and gun violence add to retailers' concerns about being able to keep employees and customers safe."