Hi-Tech Security Solutions spoke to the Consumer Goods Council of South Africa and the V&A Waterfront’s senior security manager about the best way to reduce theft and loss in the retail environment. Information sharing and a comprehensive risk assessment and solution plan take centre stage.
In an effort to curb crime in the retail sector, the Consumer Goods Crime Risk Initiative (CGCRI), a division of the Consumer Goods Council of South Africa (CGCSA), is promoting the broad participation of the retail industry in its collaborative anti-crime platform. This platform has an established track record and capability built up over the past 12 years through the active membership of the major retail stores, including Massmart, Pick ‘n Pay, Shoprite Checkers, SPAR, Woolworths, AVI and, more recently, the Foschini Group.
The initiative also caters for the needs of the shopping centres (in partnership with the South African Council of Shopping Centres (SACSC), and specific sectors (such as the jewellery industry through a partnership with the Jewellery Council of South Africa (JCSA)), amongst others.
This centralised information-sharing platform forms the basis for the gathering of crime incident information across the industry, the analysis of trends and the formulation of measures to combat, mitigate and prevent serious and violent crime. The objective is to harness the collective crime prevention and combating efforts of the sector into focused initiatives, and establish and maintain national and regional structures that enable the ongoing cooperation across the sector and between government and the sector.
Specific outcomes for the initiative include the design and implementation of specific crime prevention interventions to ensure a safe shopping and retail environment; the establishment and maintenance of a close working relationship with law enforcement agencies and networking with related industry and national anti-crime initiatives.
Dr Graham Wright, head of the CGCSA Crime Risk Initiative (CGRI), says that a meaningful and sustainable reduction of crime in the retail industry is critically dependent on the commitment to, and participation in, a broad collaborative effort across the industry.
Wright explains that effective information sharing and cooperation across the retail industry will also enable the early detection of the migration of crime from one sector to another and the proactive management of risks. Improved and broader cooperation across the industry will also enhance the ability of the industry to structure its relationship with law enforcement and the various components of the criminal justice system, thus enhancing alignment and dealing with capacity constraints.
Assisted by technology
Part of the drive towards improved crime prevention is the adoption of more sophisticated surveillance technology. Wright explains that the use of technology, such as CCTV footage, will be enhanced by working closely with the SAPS, and the adoption of agreed industry best practices and standards. This would mean that any footage provided could be used in a court of law to correctly identify criminals for prosecution. This eventuality would necessitate the adoption of suitably high-resolution surveillance cameras and adequate recording devices, in addition to improved positioning of the cameras and attention to their ongoing maintenance.
James Oosthuizen, a consultant to the CGRI, says that security measures should be implemented in line with an assessment of the specific crime threats as well as the environment, in terms of the shop/mall layout, the nature of the retail outlet, etc. There is no silver bullet and so customisation of the security measures is essential to achieve the desired level of risk mitigation.
Ideally, according to Oosthuizen, retailers should be able to achieve a good quality image of perpetrators in the event of a crime incident. Many retailers, he believes, would like to add facial recognition technology to their wish list in order to further strengthen prosecutory procedures. The ultimate goal is zero losses and shrinkage. In order to comply with budgetary constraints, this would necessitate reviewing exactly where the technology will produce the best results. This would determine not only exact locations, but also correct quality/specification of cameras to achieve concentrated facial views.
Sharing for the common good
Wright says that as far as the CGRI is concerned, there are a number of important aspects in a security or risk management plan. These include adequate communication between stakeholders, analysis of footage to determine best practice, sharing of trends, and a holistic approach instead of an events-based approach. In all instances, it is critical to commit to the principle that matters of crime and security are non-competitive issues, and that information sharing and cooperation on these matters across the industry is ultimately for the greater good of the industry, its employees and customers.
This level of cooperation across competitors, Wright says, can best be achieved by ring-fencing those issues which can be regarded as internal risk factors (fraud and employee collaboration with syndicates) and those which can be regarded as generic external risk factors (such as criminal syndicates engaging in robberies, burglaries, etc.).
Wright believes that the sharing and adoption of crime prevention and security best practices across the industry, as well as from other industries, are required. An example cited is the risk assessment tool which has been successfully used by the petroleum forecourt industry. He says that the identification and adaption of successful approaches should be stepped up, building on efforts aimed at mitigating the threat of serious crimes against the business sector.
Oosthuizen says that the use of security data to obtain business intelligence is generally very store-specific, for example, with some retailers actively using surveillance footage to alert management when queues are becoming too lengthy or to ascertain where the foot traffic is highest in order to move higher value products to those areas.
A combination of technology and people is necessary to decrease risk in the retail environment and the ratio is determined by each application and is a direct comparison of cost versus benefit.
What’s in store for security?
Deon Sloane, the senior security manager at the high-profile V&A Waterfront development in Cape Town, says that before one can design the security solution it is essential to first review the geographical layout of the retail space and its surrounding environment. Based on the above assessment or risk review, one can then zone it according to the level of risk. Ideally, the solution should be a combination of physical security and technology (CCTV and access control, for example).
He adds that visitors to any retail space want to feel safe and within budgetary restraints, one has to cost effectively create that environment. The solution should comprise multiple resources inclusive of physical security, CCTV, access control, customer care and correct retail space design, supported by all role players (tenant to landlord).
Sloane would like to see security service providers appointing and training their employees to become more effective on the ground and to not merely rely on the PSIRA training standards. This, he believes, should be a joint venture with clients. Additionally, service providers should provide their security officers with more access to the current technology available, including bringing them up to speed in terms of computer literacy.
His advice with the vast range of technology available on the market, inclusive of video management systems with third-party applications, is to ensure that it is an open protocol VMS to provide cost effective, user friendly integration.
Top of his wish list is a robust handheld device that could be used not only to track the movement of a security officer, but furthermore that can be used by security officers to input data on events as they happen. This information could then be shared with both the control room and other security officers on site for up to the minute reporting.
A security/risk management plan should be based on intelligence and be inclusive not only of the risk identification, but more importantly, of the solutions and the costs involved to achieve risk mitigation.
The V&A Waterfront integrated a number of its systems in 2009 and on a daily basis reviews the data to determine what other systems can be integrated, such as various BMS applications. Currently, the facility integrates fire detection and suppression systems, PA system, BMS (including all lifts), CCTV surveillance and access control.
Advantages are derived by monitoring the number of visitors who enter a parking area. If the system detects that a parking area is full, visitors will be channelled to alternative parking. In addition, a message is sent out on social media to inform potential visitors of the location of this alternative parking.
He points out that other uses for the integrated system is people counting, which helps storekeepers to determine where busy areas are in their stores. The data has also been used in a recent project to ascertain whether it would be necessary to build another access bridge, based on the foot count over the existing bridge.
He says that their fundamental principle and approach is to be proactive at all times and continuous review, based on the information derived from the integrated system, allows them freedom of movement and planning in a cost effective manner.
Deon Sloane, V&A Waterfront Head Office, +27 (0)21 408 7777.
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