The economic downturn has left no industry untouched, least of all the retail sector where consumer spending is dropping and crime rising.
“The industry is hurting,” says Jack Edery, CEO of Elvey Security Technologies. “Not only because sales volumes are down but also because its old adversary, crime, is simultaneously on the rise. These two problems are typical of recessionary conditions, which can drive otherwise honest people to do stupid things.”
Unlike banks which have sophisticated security systems in place, Edery says most retailers are very vulnerable to robbery and shrinkage. “They often do not take even the simplest steps to adequately secure their personnel, stock and cash, which leaves them wide open to being robbed.”
Francois Smuts, New Business Development manager for Elvey, agrees: “Criminals look for opportunities and system weaknesses, increasingly so when times are tough. The bottom line is that anyone, anywhere, can become a victim of retail crime if they do not have good systems in place.”
One of the most effective ways of reducing retail crime is the installation of an integrated security system that equips security guards with the tools they need to monitor everyone on the premises, whether staff members, contract workers or visitors.
“Patrol systems that use GSM (global system for mobile communication) can monitor time and attendance in realtime,” he explains. “Data transmitted through GSM cellular networks makes it possible to receive second-by-second updates on a live, Web-based patrol monitoring system, which has a number of benefits.
“For one, you can ensure that the guards have been patrolling as scheduled. For another, the guard is able to communicate immediately with the control room in the event that he spots suspicious behaviour or a crime in progress by pressing his panic button. This dramatically improves not only the safety of the guard but also that of employees and the property. What is more, the control room can call a security guard at any time, whether to reassure him that assistance is on its way, or to advise of an emergency or of missed or unfinished patrols.”
The changing face of the shopping mall
In the last decade shopping malls have become social centres where an ever-increasing amount of people meet and hang out. Establishing a comprehensive security strategy for this type of environment therefore requires a deep understanding of the diverse layers of security. This not only includes the actual shopping area but also the parking lot and the area around the building. In such a complex environment, technology is integral to addressing the requisite layers of security, which include intrusion, fire safety, closed circuit television (CCTV) and access control, all critical components of any professional security plan.
As technology advances these layers are becoming more and more integrated into a single platform, which makes it easier to monitor and manage from one central spot. While telephone lines are usually used by security companies to monitor various locations, it is the alarm panel that normally sends opening, closing and test signals to the central monitoring station. Considering that each signal costs the equivalent of a telephone call, the annual cost to organisations is substantial. The cost-saving benefit of communicating to the central monitoring station via Internet is therefore very attractive to people, especially in these tough economic times.
IP (Internet protocol) delivers other important benefits too, he notes. These include faster data transmission and immediate notification of line interruptions at both the central station and the protected premises. Another advantage of alarm reporting via IP is that the communication link between the premises and the control room is securely supervised and any dropped signal or failure to report will therefore trigger a communication alarm – something that the traditional telephone line cannot provide.
When installing protection for retail environments that contain on-site warehouses, Smuts emphasises the importance of using the services of a security company capable of responding to alarm calls within seconds of an alert. The choice of signal receiver is also very important.
Another important consideration with regard to infrastructural spend is the number of accounts or locations that can be monitored by a receiver. “Modern algorithm design in IP communication can easily handle 1024 IP alarm communications,” says Smuts. He therefore advises clients who require their alarms to be constantly supervised to take a system where the alarm control panel communicates every 90 seconds with the monitoring station receiver. “This form of communication blocks any attempts to compromise the security of the premises, whereas unsupervised dead lines tend to go unnoticed.”
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