Retailers turn to fog machines to create ‘near-zero visibility’ to stop theft

If they can’t see it, they can’t steal it.


That’s the philosophy behind a new security system that pumps dense fog into the air, trapping criminals and preventing them from carrying out after-hours smash-and-grab jobs that have put thousands of retailers across the country out of business.

The system, which ties into an existing alarm system or can be used as a stand-alone unit, pumps out a mixture of glycol and distilled water through a heating unit, creating a dry, dense white fog that generates a “near-zero visibility environment” that makes it impossible to see through in a matter of seconds, Mike Egel, president of DensityUSA, the master distributor for the fog generator in the United States, told the Washington Examiner.

“It’s so dry that there is no residue,” he said from a security summit in Dallas. “There’s nothing to clean up. It’s perfectly safe to breathe. It’s perfectly safe for the assets of the business. It’s perfectly safe for humans and pets.”

If the fog generator is tied to an alarm, as soon as the alarm or motion detector trips, the fog deploys, taking just a few seconds to fill a 1,000- to 1,500-square-foot space, Egel said.


Its popularity is tied to the nationwide retail theft epidemic that cost retailers in the U.S. close to $100 billion in 2021.

Retailers, ranging from Nordstrom to local boutiques, have been forced to either raise their prices or shutter their shops altogether following a rash of crimes. Others have locked up their items in cases to curtail theft. But in some states like California, thieves have become so brazen that they have flipped off security cameras or made eye contact with shop owners as they strolled out of stores with stolen items. Larger retailers, fearing for the safety of their staff, have edicts in place that prevent them from going after lawbreakers, emboldening even more people from coming in and taking whatever they want.

Locked Up Merchandise
Shoppers browse pharmaceutical items locked in a glass cabinet at a Gristedes supermarket, Tuesday Jan. 31, 2023, in New York.
Bebeto Matthews/AP


With prosecutors refusing to step in, shop owners are largely left to their own devices to prevent theft in their establishments.

The density foggers have been used globally in France, Germany, Finland, Norway, Mexico, and the United Kingdom for years but are just now gaining traction in the U.S.