CNBC's Cohn: To Catch A Retail Thief

Two weeks and counting until Christmas, and the shoppers are out in force. But so are the shoplifters, who get more sophisticated all the time. Now, they're facing a new kind of resistance. On this morning’s “Squawk Box” CNBC’s Scott Cohn went behind the scenes to see what business are doing to catch these thieves.

Here’s what Scott reported:

It's a constant cat and mouse game, and at the holiday season, it moves into overdrive. But at Target--they are searching for a better mousetrap.

Retailers are up against a new breed of criminal. More brazen than ever and technologically savvy.

If they just change the barcode, any item can become--literally-- a steal. Then fence it not at a pawn shop--but online.

Brad Brekke tries to stay one step ahead of the bad guys. He's Head of Asset Protection for Target . Brad says "We’ve looked at a crime problem that was not just a retail problem but something that impacts the community."

So now in Target's hometown of Minneapolis, police and Target security work side by side--sharing intelligence and expertise. Target, for example, boasts one of the most sophisticated video surveillance operations in the world. And the benefits go beyond fighting shoplifting. With other companies joining the partnership--crime rates in downtown Minneapolis are down sharply.

The centerpiece of the system is a network of 30 cameras throughout downtown, paid for by businesses and monitored by the police. Now, you pretty much can't go anywhere in downtown Minneapolis without being watched.

Authorities say the conviction rate for crimes caught on these cameras is 100% - and now others are following the trend.

At the Mall of America, one police officer assigned to the mall used to stay outside in a squad car until called. Now, there's a police precinct right inside the mall. (Private security, by the way, is one of the fastest growing industries in the country.)

Retail theft is a $37 billion problem nationwide: that’s more losses than from auto theft, burglary and armed robbery, combined!