The Next Level
With advanced digital security cameras, owners have more tools to deter theft and fraud while improving store management
- By Del Williams
- Apr 01, 2019
Convenience stores and mini marts have traditionally
installed surveillance cameras to deter crime and
encourage safety, but too often these have provided
images that lacked detail, particularly in low light
conditions. Retrieving video has usually been tedious,
requiring endless searching and scanning to find the desired footage.
Sharing and archiving of the video has also been cumbersome,
wasting precious technical and management resources.
Now advanced digital IP video cameras and recorders are capturing
clearer images inside and outside the store in various lighting
conditions to deter theft, fraud, and unjustified claims such as
slip and fall incidents. By providing easily retrievable and emailable
surveillance video evidence, this approach is even enabling the swift
collection of full compensation when store property is damaged. The
surprisingly economical IP network surveillance systems are also enabling
executives to efficiently monitor store conditions from home,
headquarters, or anywhere with an Internet connection.
“With an advanced surveillance camera system, a convenience
store chain could achieve ROI within a year through better prevention
of theft, fraud, and unjustified claims as well as improved operational
oversight,” said Todd Harrison, IT director who oversees loss
prevention camera surveillance for Sprint Food Stores, which operates
20 convenience stores in Georgia and South Carolina.
Previously, Sprint Food Stores used lower resolution cameras that
required onsite DVD burning as a means of storage. According to Harrison,
limitations in surveillance video quality and connectivity were the
main reasons that the convenience store chain sought an alternative.
As a solution, Harrison turned to an advanced surveillance camera
system provided by ERC, a supplier and integrator of surveillance
and POS systems. The company has provided over 10,000 stores and
restaurants with surveillance or POS systems including Arby’s, Popeyes,
KFC and Burger King.
The integrator supplied Sprint Food Stores with a complete
surveillance video system, including various high-resolution digital
cameras, network video recorders, and related equipment. This provides
comprehensive video coverage inside and outside of stores, the
corporate office, and remote offices, even in low-light/varying light
conditions, and enables adjusting the angle or focus to capture the
visual evidence required.
“ERC worked with us on exact camera placement and suggested
slight adjustments to improve visibility and get the maximum coverage
with the minimum number of cameras,” Harrison said.
One benefit of implementing the new surveillance system was how it
eliminated “blind spots” within stores, such as inside a walk-in beer cooler,
which made it easy to prevent theft and catch thieves, Harrison said.
“We put a camera inside the walk-in beer cooler and at other
blind spots so we can monitor them at the front counter,” Harrison
said. “This prevents theft so we don’t have to prosecute, and provides
video evidence if we do.”
Among the equipment installed in stores, Harrison appreciates a
3-megapixel fisheye network camera that provides a full, 360-degree
view over a web browser. This provides three, simultaneous pan, tilt
and zoom video streams that can be viewed live or recorded.
“The great part about the 360-degree view camera is being able to
view the whole store,” Harrison said. “You can zoom in for a close
up of what you want to focus on, and quickly see which store camera
has the best view.”
The surveillance system can also help to identify and deter potential
cash register transaction theft, which can occur, for instance,
through unscrupulous voids or no sale register transactions. The surveillance
system integrates with the store’s POS system and provides
Smart ER exception reports, a type of advanced filtering software
included with the surveillance system. So quick analysis of thousands
of register transactions can be done to identify suspicious activity
and pull up video of it for review.
“The district manager may get alerts from the exception system if
there are an extreme number of voids or no sales, so may bring up ten
seconds of video after each to review,” Harrison said.
Deterring and disproving fraudulent claims is another benefit of
implementing easily accessible, high quality surveillance video. The
information can be used to deter unwarranted claims for slip and fall
or workers compensation, for example.
“When a store was involved with a slip and fall claim, we were
able to show on video that other customers took the same path as
the accuser without incident, and that less harm was involved than
stated,” Harrison said. “We retrieved the video, sent it to her lawyer,
and her lawyer dropped the case.”
Occasionally, patrons demand chargebacks, claiming that they did
not make the purchase. Previously, managers had little recourse. Now this can be resolved much more effectively.
For instance, when a customer claimed that he could not possibly
fit 20 gallons of gas in his Ford Escort, Harrison said the incident was
resolved with a simple callback after reviewing some revealing video.
“We viewed him filling gas cans next to his car before putting
them in,” Harrison said. “We asked, ‘Did you forget your two 5-gallon
gas cans? We have you on video.’ That ended the dispute.”
Surveillance video can even be used as evidence to collect costly damage
to equipment or store property. Harrison relates how at one location
a truck driver ran into a 3-foot high, LED diesel fuel sign,
destroying it, before driving off.
“When we emailed the trucking company high-quality surveillance
video of the incident with their truck/trailer number and company
name clearly readable, we were promptly compensated,” Harrison
said. “That alone paid for the store’s surveillance system.”
On another occasion, Sprint Food Stores had a storage building
roof torn off by a truck just before dawn without the driver stopping
to talk to anyone, according to Harrison.
“Because our infrared cameras provided clear identifying information
on the truck, we were able to quickly file a claim with the
truck company and recover 100 percent of damages,” Harrison said.
“There was no delay in receiving payment because we had proof.”
Compared with the chain’s previous approach, implementation of
the advanced system has significantly improved management.
“Video can be reviewed and archived remotely as needed, which
eliminates the need to spend hours every week traveling to burn
DVDs for video storage,” Harrison said.
He notes that the remote viewing of store video also gives the
chain’s operations manager a window into how each store is doing
without having to travel to each on a daily basis. A quick glance, for
instance, can help to verify that employees are in uniform, at their
work stations, and serving customers without long lines.
The surveillance system also has an optional video analytics
software module that could help Sprint Food Stores more effectively
merchandise retail items, according to Harrison, who notes
that the chain is not currently using this option, but may do so in
“The video analytics module would basically pinpoint where in the
store people are traveling, where they stop, and where they spend time,
over time,” Harrison said. “So you can tell which products interest people
the most, and how to improve product placement and merchandising.”
When convenience store owners are ready to take theft/fraud prevention
and operational efficiency to the next level
with advanced video surveillance systems, they will
often find that the most effective choice is to partner
with a flexible vendor capable of installing a turnkey
solution that integrates with their equipment to fully
meet their needs.
This article originally appeared in the April 2019 issue of Security Today.