Retail safety & security: Using surveillance beyond loss prevention and customer service

Johan Åkesson

We’ve spoken about how surveillance can be used for loss prevention, customer experience and operational efficiency in retail, but have you considered how it can be applied to safety and security in the new retail environment?

The face of bricks and mortar retail is changing. There are now less people on the ground and more unattended areas. With fewer people overseeing what is happening on the shop floor and in other areas of the retail environment, using technology has become an important aspect of ensuring safety and security.

Knowing who is on-site

One area that needs to be considered when discussing safety and security in retail is access control. It is crucial to know who is on-site should an emergency happen. With many more retailers now having unmanned loading/delivery bays that are accessed by third parties as well as store employees, it is vital everyone can be accounted for should an evacuation situation occur, such as a fire.

Unauthorized access is also an area that needs to be closely monitored to avoid malicious activity by those who could gain access to a retail area. Imagine, for example, if a disgruntled ex-employee in a grocery store gained access to the stock room and tampered with food products that were then purchased by customers and consumed – the extent of the hazards this could cause is unimaginable.

Access control also plays a massive part in employee safety and security. For example, someone may be counting a large sum of takings in the store’s cash room. Criminals may be aware that this process happens, either from monitoring the store or from insider information, and target the cash room at that time. By having suitable access control for sensitive or restricted areas, if someone tries to gain access to the area, the employee can check it is safe to grant them access, reducing the risk of both their safety and the security of the contents of the room being compromised.

Shop floor safety

The safety and security of customers visiting the store is also of paramount importance. Surveillance cameras with on-board analytics can be used to identify certain cues and trigger an alert that can be acted upon as needed. For example, combining the camera with a network microphone, so if there is a bang it would alert security, who could check the camera to see the shop floor and identify if there is a risk that should be acted upon.

If there is an immediate risk, such as a fire, security can use cameras to see where there is a safe evacuation route and, using public announcement systems, direct those out of the store safely and efficiently.

Cameras and analytics can also be used to spot potential dangers, such as identifying an object obstructing an emergency exit. In this scenario, store staff can be alerted and remove the hazard in a timely manner, eliminating the risk. Similarly, cameras can be used to monitor the environment and recognize something that could potentially cause an accident, such as a wet floor or a display that has been moved so it is no longer secure. Once identified an attendant can remove the risk, preventing a customer from coming to harm.

A sense of security

Our 24 hour, convenience, society means more stores are open all night and in remote locations. This can be unnerving for potential customers who may (rightly or wrongly) assume late night, remote stores could attract a more edgy clientele. By having surveillance in place, they are more likely to feel safer and more secure, which has the added benefit of continuing sales throughout the night.

With remote locations, there may be fewer patrons, so store workers may often be alone with only one customer. To increase their safety and security in what could be a vulnerable situation, cameras with audio analytics can be used to detect aggression and send an alert to the central operator, who can verify the risk via the camera. This is especially important because in a violent situation it may not be possible for the store worker to alert authorities and the automatic detection significantly shortens the response time should help be required.

Similarly, remote stores could be a more attractive target for vandalism and crime, as the perpetrators are less likely to be disturbed and caught. In this case, surveillance in parking lots can identify those loitering, therefore alerting the store owner to potential criminal acts, such as vandalism, a break in or the possible intention of robbing a clerk who may be closing up and taking away the day’s earnings to be cashed the next day.

These are just a few examples of the safety and security considerations today’s retails face. Surveillance is more important than ever for ensuring retail safety and security. To find out more about the solutions to help keep your store safe and secure, please visit our dedicated Retail solutions page.

Safety and security in retail