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The retail industry plays a significant role in the history of video surveillance. In the 1970s, retail businesses began incorporating video cameras into their security strategies. These early surveillance systems were powered by CCTV cameras. Surprisingly, retail surveillance had little impact on crime in retail settings; business owners discovered that surveillance cameras must be combined with signage indicating the presence of a camera to effectively deter crime. Although cameras alone did not deter crime in the absence of signage notifying the public of video monitoring, camera footage proved to be useful in forensic investigations. CCTV footage was notoriously grainy, which presented problems when attempting to identify minute details or, in some cases, recognize faces. In the 1990s, IP cameras were introduced into security systems. These cameras offered higher resolution images and the ability to save footage without requiring a VHS tape. Although IP cameras provided better image quality and more convenience, systems that utilize these new cameras were similar to CCTV camera systems in that retail businesses were not seeing the effect of crime deterrence unless they displayed signage warning the public that the store was being recorded. Approximately a decade later, further advancements were made in camera surveillance technology to include the option of biometric surveillance, which can be used to identify people who have been identified for potential involvement in other crimes from the moment they enter the store by matching the individual’s face to a criminal database.
Advantages of installing video surveillance
Most people think deterring shoplifting is the main reason businesses install a video surveillance system. Retail theft prevention is one of several ways in which businesses benefit from video monitoring. Employees feel safer knowing their environment is being monitored. Retail outlets are generally open to the public; therefore, virtually anyone can walk in. It is not uncommon for sales associates and managers to become involved in heated exchanges with unhappy customers or otherwise encounter people who engage in combative or suspicious behavior in the store. People who visit retail outlets with the intent to advance a scam or behave in a threatening manner toward employees are more likely to be deterred if they are aware their behavior is being recorded. Furthermore, if a dispute arises, employers who have installed a surveillance system may simply review recorded footage to determine what happened during the exchange. Installing a video surveillance system may also allow a business owner or manager time away from the obligation of constantly monitoring a store. It is impossible to always be present at a retail business around the clock. By installing video surveillance equipment, business owners may keep an eye on the safety of their store site and monitor employee productivity from the convenience of a mobile phone. The time savings and added sense of security make video surveillance an essential tool for virtually every Fort Lauderdale retail business.
Types of possible theft in a store setting
In addition to providing a video record of exchanges between customers and employees and helping managers and business owners monitor productivity, camera surveillance is useful in documenting and, in some cases, deterring various types of theft.
- Shoplifting: According to the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention, more than $13 billion in goods is shoplifted from retail environments every year. Security officers often have difficulty detecting very experienced shoplifters. Stores may save thousands annually by installing security cameras instead of hiring security personnel to patrol the store during open hours.
- Employee theft: Similar to shoplifting, employee theft is also a concern for virtually all retail businesses. Managers do the best they can to vet job applicants; however, the pre-employment screening process does not eliminate the possibility that an employee will engage in theft. Employees who cause their place of employment to lose money due to theft do not only do so by taking merchandise without making payment or receiving authorization.
- Sweethearting: Business also lose money when employees engage in sweethearting or giving unauthorized discounts or free items to friends and family. Sweethearting is often committed by entering an alternative code into a cash register or making other discrete maneuvers that may be missed by a busy manager. A security camera that has zoom capability can capture the fine details of transactions and allow managers and store owners to review footage if the numbers do not add up.
- Flash rob theft: Large metropolitan cities have fairly recently begun experiencing a new class of theft known as flash robs. This form of theft is characterized by large groups of people entering a store and stealing products while breaking items. throwing objects, and behaving aggressively toward store employees.
- Organized crime: Underground shoplifting rings operate around the country. Members of these groups walk into stores, grab expensive items, and conceal them in carts or bags. The shoplifters then walk out of the store and escape via a waiting getaway car.
Placement of security cameras in retail outlets
There are critical areas in a retail store that require surveillance more than others. Positioning a camera above store entrances and exits will provide clear images of everyone who enters or exits the store. IP cameras are capable of delivering clear images of faces and small details. Mounting a camera above the cash register will provide images of cash register transactions to track instances of theft. Placing the camera directly above the scanner makes it possible to catch instances of sweethearting. The sales floor of a retail setting requires at least one camera, depending on size and visibility. Dimly-lit aisles and areas of low visibility may require a separate camera.
Every Fort Lauderdale retail business should protect itself by installing surveillance equipment to monitor the most critical areas. Managers and store owners are busy enough with day-to-day operations and focusing the future growth of the business. By installing a comprehensive surveillance system, management and store owners are able to keep an eye on productivity, customer disputes, and loss prevention without having to be physically present in every situation at all times. The specific setup and equipment a retail business chooses to implement depends entirely on the size, layout, and lighting of the setting in which the system will be used.