Securing Retail

Securing Retail

November 13, 2018 | print | Connexus Magazine

Common Sense Approaches Protect a Retailer’s Exterior Space

Video surveillance and attention to details in parking areas enhance security

Protecting the safety and well-being of employees and customers and protecting the store and its assets extends beyond the store’s interior. Lighting, landscaping, design of parking lots and camera technology all contribute to a retailer’s ability to improve safety outside the box.

“Often times, the most overlooked exterior security practices are the most basic ones,” said Hedgie Bartol, Retail Business Development Manager at Axis Communications. “Making sure the parking lot outside of the store remains well-lit and clean contributes to deterrence, creates a sense of safety for shoppers and allows surveillance cameras to get a clear view of the area,” he said. “Additionally, stores need to ensure there are no large structures obstructing the video surveillance cameras’ view and cameras are maintained– especially towards the back of the store and areas less frequented by customers.”

Well-placed cameras can also help local law enforcement as well as protect a retailer, said John Velke, SVP of Risk Management for Total Wine & More. “Exterior cameras should be positioned to maximize the view of the entrance and parking field,” he explained. “For example, during the recent bombing episodes in the San Antonio area, law enforcement was able to obtain images and a description of the suspect’s vehicle from commercially-owned cameras near the FedEx store where two bombs were mailed. That information was critical in quickly identifying the suspect and preventing additional bombings.”

Protecting the store from intruders also means looking up, according to Velke. “Roof access protection, particularly when there are adjoining buildings, is often overlooked,” he said. “Spaces using skylights to reduce energy consumption create an additional vulnerability that needs to be evaluated and addressed.”

“A thorough analysis of the neighborhood and the protective measures taken by other nearby businesses should dictate the protective measures considered,” suggested Velke. “In addition to the obvious need for adequate lighting, things like roll-down metal gates, employee parking with good sight lines and no areas where a person can easily hide, are important.”

“Best practices for exterior store security will vary depending on the property’s crime index score, but video surveillance is a key piece of any  security plan, Bartol said. “It is important for stores to assess their own specific security needs and implement surveillance equipment that works in their specific lighting conditions and provides the best coverage possible.”

When selecting exterior surveillance equipment, don’t forget to consider weather conditions such as rain, wind and temperature changes, suggested Bartol. “Having a solution that can trigger either an audio or lighting deterrent can be helpful as well,” he added.

Radar is one technology that addresses limitations posed by weather or time of day, Bartol said. “Axis’ network radar detector solutions provide retailers the ability to see and track outdoor activity in all lighting conditions,” he said. “During times of extreme brightness, total darkness, severe rain or thick fog, network radar detection can still see objects in its line of sight and track motion.” Retailers can set parameters for what should be tracked – for example, a retailer may want to track items that are only the size of a racoon and larger, so the solution wouldn’t be triggered by falling leaves or birds, he added. 

“The solution communicates with PTZ cameras to identify exactly where an object is and triggers an alert,” explained Bartol. Perimeters can be established so that when the camera detects an object at a certain point, the outdoor lights brighten, and an audio alert announces the store is closed and what the open hours are. If the intruder passes that check point another audio message can be triggered to let them know they are trespassing, and authorities have been notified.

“Network radar detection enhances the abilities of video surveillance offering more than just an image,” Bartol said. “The additional data provided about an object’s direction, size and speed can make a big difference in safety, loss prevention and overall peace of mind.”

“While technology has contributed to both deterring crime and mitigating its effects, the presence of employees or designated guards is still an important factor in security,” Bartol said. “A human presence provides an added level of customer service and can help keep parking lots clear of shopping carts and other potential hazards.

Just as no one loss prevention or asset protection strategy is effective by itself, no reliable plan can be developed by the FM alone, Velke said. “A good best practice is to collaborate with other departments to identify risks and ways to mitigate those risks,” he said. “Evaluate most likely risks as well as unlikely events and develop plans to address them.”

Steps an FM can take to bolster the safety of associates, customers and assets include:

1. Learn about new services  being considered and advise on safety and loss prevention prior to launch of the service. Are ATMs going to be added to store locations? If so, FMs can explain that locating the ATM in a lobby area, close to the front door, makes it easy for thieves  to drive a truck through glass doors and pull the ATM out, Velke said. If the FM is included in these discussions, the location and other security measures, such as roll down gates to protect the front door, can also be evaluated.

2. Look at ingress and egress of your parking lots and store and balance the need for convenience with the potential for criminal activity, Velke suggested. “For example, a location near a major interstate with quick and easy access from your parking area to the interstate will likely lead to more incidents of car break-ins, car thefts and perhaps even worse – car-jackings and kidnappings,” he said. “Designing traffic flow and parking lot striping to limit a fast and easy exit may be appropriate.”

3. Survey neighbors and competitors to see what measures they take to prevent loss. “Thieves go where it is easiest to steal,” Velke said. “Don’t look at your nearby neighbors’ enhanced security as spendthrift – their efforts may be driving potential theft to your location.”

“There is no one-size-fits-all approach to retail security,” Bartol pointed out. “There are similarities so work with landlords, neighboring retailers and law enforcement to identify strategies that work for your store location.”

By: Sheryl S. Jackson

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