On Camera

Dennis Spinks explains why video surveillance is a must for retailers.

In a commercial environment of reduced margins, shifting customer loyalties and increased competition, retailers can ill-afford the financial burden of asset shrinkage from shoplifting, robbery and employee theft. And with litigation against employers on the rise, nor can retail store owners afford to be lax when it comes to safeguarding themselves from costly, protracted lawsuits.

Increasingly, retailers are looking to video surveillance technology to protect their goods and property and provide added protection from litigation. The right video security system can effectively monitor a store for shoplifters and dishonest employees while also acting as an evidence-gathering tool for all types of workplace-related crime including false accident claims and credit card fraud. Whereas a few years ago video surveillance was largely seen as a luxury that only medium-to-large retail stores could justify and afford, these days even the smallest of retailers are discovering that powerful video security is both within their financial reach and is capable of delivering a strong return on investment.

The most significant development in the video security systems market in recent years has been the increasing popularity of Digital Video Recording (DVR) systems. For retailers who are considering the implementation of video security equipment a DVR system offers several advantages. Unlike a traditional analogue system that records images onto VCR video tapes, a DVR system downloads its images onto a computer hard drive. Additionally, a DVR system records sharp images which do not degrade over time. With court cases usually being heard months or even years after a crime has been committed, this is a particularly useful feature.

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When it comes to employee theft, which frequently takes place when the employer is off-site, digital video offers the advantage of enabling an employer to monitor store premises remotely and catch light-fingered employees in the act. A DVR system transmits pictures via a modem over a PSTN, ISDN or LAN network, allowing for monitoring from virtually anywhere there's an internet connection. When an employee is caught stealing or committing fraud, the availability of video evidence makes it far less likely the offender will lodge an unfair dismissal claim that may cost thousands of dollars to defend.

Once the digital video footage is stored onto hard drive, retrieving images is straightforward. Digital video offers a variety of tools that make it simple to access specific events and specific times. A DVR system can, for example, be linked to a store's point-of-sale system so that it becomes activated whenever a transaction is made. As well as being useful in safeguarding against employee theft, this feature has proven effective in detecting credit card fraud and other crimes committed at the point of sale. Also, whereas an analogue system allows only one camera per recorder, the typical DVR system can handle 16 cameras at once with images being able to be viewed simultaneously on a computer monitor. Because it can store far more information than analogue, digital video allows stores – particularly larger retailers – to deploy their security people far more efficiently.

With its ability to provide peace-of-mind and deliver a strong and rapid return on investment, digital video surveillance technology is expected continue to grow in popularity amongst retailers. With retail fraud, store theft and lawsuits against employers on the increase, there is simply too much at stake for store owners to not consider the installation of an effective video security system.

Dennis Spinks is the general manager of Sydney-based Kodicom Australia, a provider of Digital Video Recording (DVR) systems to the retail industry. For information on how a Kodicom DVR system can protect your business phone Kodicom on 1300 666 688, email Dennis Spinks at dspinks@kodicom.com.au or visit www.kodicom.com

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