Audio Increases Security at Convenience Stores
The convenience store (c-store) industry in the United States is booming. There are more than 151,000 c-stores across the nation that bring in more than $700 billion in sales, according to the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS). As c-stores continue to expand their menus, services and staff, they’re also increasing the number of assets that need protection. Deterring robbery, whether it be employee theft or shoplifting, remains a top priority. Stores have traditionally relied on surveillance and access control solutions to secure their property, but are now incorporating audio technologies that will enhance their current system.
Recently, one of the largest convenience store chains in the Midwest and South wanted to evaluate and potentially upgrade some of their security solutions. Previously, they had installed Louroe Electronics’ audio monitoring systems in their stores and had great success. However, they still wanted to ask their trusted advisor and integrator, SageNet, to recommend a microphone.
“If it’s not broken, don’t try to fix it,” said Trey Walling, senior client executive at SageNet. “Louroe’s product durability is great and there have been no complaints. You should continue going with Louroe.”
Headquartered in Tulsa, Oklahoma, SageNet has been the primary provider of physical security for the end user at the store level for several years.
The track record for Louroe’s microphones speaks to why they are the best audio solutions on the market.
“I can’t recall a single instance in the last seven years where there has been a problem with the Louroe microphone,” Walling explained.
Louroe Electronics’ technology has been installed in more than 700 of the convenience retailer’s locations. The audio solutions are best known for their omni-directional capability and sensitivity– they can pick up sound within a 30’ diameter. SageNet installed a combination of the Verifact A and Verifact B microphones so that there were three to five microphones in each retail store. Typically, the audio products are mounted on the ceiling above point-of-sales (POS) terminals or other areas of interest.
The microphones are primarily used for live monitoring, responding to situations and resolving conflict. They interface with an AP-4 base station that is typically placed in an office or control room. The desktop unit receives and plays back the audio through its three-inch speaker. The base station also has four audio outputs for connection to a DVR or other recording device, allowing the end user to review video footage synced with audio.
In addition to the microphones, the convenience retailer also employs other security tools including public view monitors and mullion cameras. The 32-inch screens that display live video surveillance feeds act as a crime deterrent by showing people they’re being monitored. The mullion cameras are placed at every point of ingress to capture facial recognition. Thus, if there’s a shoplifter, the staff is able to provide very detailed images to the authorities to aid their search of the suspect.
Audio allows a store manager to evaluate interactions at the checkout counter to ensure an employee is providing proper customer service. The supervisor can also use the audio as evidence to discover what really happened between two employees and determine the appropriate action.
“If you don’t have the audio, to go along with the video, you’re never going to get the complete story,” said Walling. “You’re going to have to take someone’s word on what was said.”
Moreover, if an alarming event occurs, such as someone attempting to steal merchandise, the audio-video surveillance system will alert store and security personnel. Thanks to the Louroe microphone, staff from headquarters can even take action in real-time and speak to suspects saying, “You’re on camera” or “The police have been notified.”
When it comes to the question of whether a retailer should use audio as part of its security system, the answer is clear, according to Walling.
“People who are new to the subject, may tend to brush aside audio and say it’s not that important,” explained Walling. “But I would say, if that were true, we’d all still be going to silent movies.”
The final benefit of audio that Walling discussed is how it offers retailers significant protection against liability.
“When there’s litigation involved and you’re going to court or pressing charges, if you can provide that audio file along with the visual to the judges, jury or attorney, it makes your story that much more compelling.”