September saw Hi-Tech Security Solutions and the Consumer Goods Crime Risk Initiative hosting Retail Risk 2015 at the Radisson Blu Gautrain Hotel in Sandton. The conference focused on securing retail locations, specifically shopping centres where crime is at an all-time high.
Attending the conference was a selection of leaders from the retail industry, both retailers, mall and property owners, as well as system integrators involved in this market. There were also five sponsors on the day who set up table-top displays to highlight their retail-related products and services while networking with the attendees. The sponsors were:
- Axis Communications.
- Elvey Security Technologies.
- Tagtron Solutions.
In this article, we will briefly describe the presentations delivered on the day, however, we can only provide brief details of what was offered in a series of excellent presentations. Hi-Tech Security Solutions would like to thank our presenters for their time on the day and the effort they put into their talks.
Kicking off the day’s presentations, Dr Graham Wright, head of the Consumer Goods Crime Risk Initiative (CGCRI), a business unit of the Consumer Goods Council of South Africa (CGCSA), delivered the keynote focused on the current situation in the retail industry, and explained how the CGCRI was expanding its scope of operations and initiating partnerships with all key role players to improve the fight against retail crime.
Wright stressed the importance of protecting the retail environment since this accounts for 14.8% of the country’s GDP (gross domestic product). South Africa also hosts 93% of the shopping centres in Africa. This significant portion of GDP has resulted in positive results in the CGCRI’s initiative to get all role players on board. The key stakeholders Wright refers to are:
- Shopping centre (owners and managers).
- Retailers and all other tenants.
- Security service providers.
- Policing and the CJS (SAPS, NPA, etc.).
- Public services (municipal, provincial and national government).
- The media.
- Customers (the public).
After highlighting the latest statistics on retail crime in South Africa, Wright explained the CGCRI Crime Risk Landscape, which involves everything from business robberies to CIT (cash in transit) theft, truck hijacking, ATM attacks, counterfeiting, shrinkage, shoplifting and burglaries. To deal with all the threats, the CGCRI has developed a strategy that will require broad cooperation from retailers as well as the associated industry and various government departments.
The good news is that the CGCSA has managed to seal an engagement model that will see SAPS engaging at a local, provincial and national level. SAPS and the industry will work together to identify and prevent crimes where possible, and also strengthen the prevention capabilities of retail environments.
Wright stressed the vital importance of cooperation between industry and the authorities, and the opportunities present in the current commitment from SAPS and government to collaborate and address the issue. He also stressed the importance of retailers getting on board to ensure the collaboration is a success.
Dr Graham Wright, Consumer Goods Crime Risk Initiative.
Nico Snyman, CEO of Crest Advisory Africa was next in line. He took a more theoretical approach to preparing the retail environment to deal with crime and any type of risk it faces. He noted that the current risk landscape is one of fragmentation and complexity where resources are wasted and departments and people don’t communicate and collaborate effectively with each other.
Snyman explained that the definition of risk is the “effect of uncertainty on objectives”, and went on to expand on that definition. Effectively preparing for risk involves the three well-known, but often ignored areas of people, processes and technology. These, of course, must work together for effective results.
Snyman also noted the need for a comprehensive risk management strategy that has leadership backing. This strategy involves the layered approach that incorporates a four-tier approach, dealing with physical and human factors at each layer. Referring to ISO 31000:2009, Snyman spoke about the three key components of risk management: principles, framework and processes – including process implementation. He then covered the development of a risk matrix as well as the process of developing, selecting and implementing measures to modify and mitigate risk.
Finally he offered a number of critical steps that must be included in an effective shopping centre and retail risk mitigation strategy, delving further into each. The steps include:
- Security risk framework (SFR)
- Risk assessment
- Hazard mitigation
- Emergency response plan
- Emergency communication protocols
- Training of staff in emergency procedures
- Resource enablers and mutual aid
- Risk-based audits (RBA)
Nico Snyman, CEO of Crest Advisory Africa
Security, technology and people
Francois Malan was the next speaker. Malan is the MD of Camsecure, a system integrator that has worked on a number of retail projects, including Sandton City and the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town. His presentation focused on the challenges he has come across in retail security installations and he offered advice on how to overcome these ‘usual suspects’.
Malan’s premise is that there are many good systems on the market, but when they are installed in retail environments they often fail to deliver the results promised. One of the problems in this regard is that of skills. With so much competition in the market, there is no incentive for vendors to really focus on skills development or maintenance. This alone puts any installation at risk.
Furthermore, malls face a contradictory set of values when it comes to security. They must make their premises open and easy to access, as well as inviting by having high value brands available, and this makes security even harder. Malan also highlighted the Gauteng Police Commissioner’s recent comments about mall security and delved into the problems the Commissioner highlighted.
Security is relaxed: Security is generally relaxed and therefore of limited efficiency. Malan highlighted the importance of a good site manager and control room operators that are continually engaging security personnel. Cameras don’t stop criminals, but are a very useful tool to manage resources and obtain evidence.
Not enough security personnel: Shopping centres are under pressure to reduce operating costs and cut people on the ground – like most businesses in South Africa. Malan says having the right number of security staff is a fine balancing act, but in many cases personnel already employed are not being effectively used. Effectiveness can be increased by a good site manager and control room coordinators that can monitor and interact with guards.
Cameras not working: This is a painful scenario when one realises that budgets are assigned and spent, but the cameras and other technology are not being used efficiently. Often poor maintenance is the result of the low priority given to security systems, and a lack of SLAs are the cause of many sites having no clear objectives for effective measurement.
Poor image quality: This is another area of contention as often retailers save money by selecting one camera for all purposes and some of these are inadequate. The key is to define the purpose of the camera and regularly test if it is measuring up to requirements.
Inside information: Another contentious and dangerous area is that of insider information leading to crime. Criminals are constantly fishing for sites with poorly maintained security systems and often anyone has access to control rooms and sensitive areas where they can learn about these deficiencies and inform the criminal element.
No standards: Echoing Snyman’s presentation, Malan highlighted the need for industry-wide standards in security installations. These are not necessarily technology standards, but the appropriate design, installation and maintenance processes.
Malan went on to discuss designing systems with the goal of measuring them, maintenance and setting up efficient control rooms.
Francois Malan, MD of Camsecure
Human behaviour expert, Dr Craig Donald was up next and he focused on control room operators and how to ensure they are able to do their jobs effectively. He said that ideally operators need to be trained properly so that they are able to identify suspicious activity and raise the alarm before an incident occurs.
To make this possible, it is important to hire the right people with the right aptitude. Not every person has the ability to be able to watch a screen intently and notice what is happening over the course of a shift. One of his clients turns down 39% of its applicants for a control room position because they are not suited to this type of environment. This means that taking a guard from gate duty and putting him in the control room is generally not a good idea unless he has demonstrated the attitude, aptitude and ability for the job.
Control room supervisors are also critical to the effectiveness of operators and the control room as a whole. They need to be present and understand the job operators do, as well as the setup in the control room. Furthermore, the environment in which operators work is also critical. They need to be able to concentrate on what they are paid to do and not deal with distractions or other jobs that takes their attention off the screen. The best operators will be those with the least in front of them to distract them.
Finally, Donald showed how difficult it is for operators to pick up signals on camera. He played a video clip of a scene just before an armed robbery was committed and asked a member of the audience to identify what was happening. Needless to say, it was not as simple to ascertain the reality of the situation before the firearms appeared as it would be to notice them in hindsight.
Dr Craig Donald, Human behavior expert
Optimal image quality
Delving into more specifics, Roy Alves, regional business development manager for Axis Communications MEA was up next to talk about how image quality can impact crime prevention and resolution. Too many retail environments don’t understand the need for specific cameras in specific locations and end up with footage that is basically useless.
Alves showed a few examples of poorly thought out camera technology and positioning before highlighting a few technologies that can be used to improve image quality. With a clear image, operators can judge a situation more accurately and the police are able to use the footage to solve the crime and gain a conviction.
The technologies mentioned included Wide Dynamic Range (WDR), Forensic Capture, thermal cameras, Corridor Format and P-Iris. To clearly define how these technologies make a difference to image quality, Alves showed impressive examples of them all in action.
Alves then also touched on video analytics solutions that can improve the surveillance installation at retailers – as long as the system delivers quality images. He mentioned video motion detection, camera tampering and audio change detection, vehicle analysis and licence plate recognition (LPR), cross-line detection and object recognition. Once again he stressed that while video analytics has improved remarkably over the years, poor image quality will reduce the effectiveness of these solutions.
Roy Alves, Axis Communications MEA
Gus Brecher, MD of Cathexis Africa then took attendees on a trip beyond security from the perimeter of shopping centres into the retail stores. The goal of the presentation was to highlight how security systems can be used for more than security, impacting and adding value to other areas of the business. He said situational awareness, the ability to know what is happening around you, is critical for security systems and personnel, but it also provides enormous amounts of data for other areas of business that allows them to contribute to the enterprise’s revenues.
Brecher then highlighted some technologies that assist in keeping perimeters secure, from microwave beams to thermal cameras. This was followed by car park and access systems where he highlighted the benefits of LPR in identifying suspicious or stolen vehicles, or as in the case of casinos, identifying high rollers when they arrive so that they can be met and treated with special care.
He then focused on analytics where he highlighted many of the analytical applications that can be run on security surveillance cameras, but with the results fed into other areas of the business. A simple example would be heat maps to determine where and how people move around a centre or store. The algorithm can be run on surveillance video and assist stores in optimising their layout.
Brecher also touched on integration and the benefits available to retailers from integrating various aspects of their security technologies. For example, when an alarm is triggered, an integrated system will automatically alert the control room, informing operators of the zone the alarm is in and focus a camera on that zone automatically while recording the incident at high resolution. He says integrated solutions improve efficiency, situational awareness and everyone’s favourite, ROI.
The presentation covered other solutions that could be applied effectively in the retail environment to not only provide optimal security, but also add value to areas of business such as HR, marketing, operations, training and health and safety.
Many estates use regular patrols by security guards, but this requires manpower and time. If adequate cameras are based effectively around the estate, security will only have to react should they spot something suspicious.
Gus Brecher, MD of Cathexis Africa
Making LPR a success
The last two presentations of the day were focused on licence plate recognition (LPR). First, Bernard Schäfer, chair of the LPR User Group and the Camps Bay Community Police Forum spoke on the issues that need to be taken into consideration is you want to implement a successful LPR system.
Schäfer touched on issues such as deciding what you want to achieve and setting a budget, and the all-important task of creating the partnerships that will support the LPR initiative. He also mentioned other important issues involved in managing the LPR system, including data capture and storage, who can access the data, mining the data for relevant information and sharing this information securely with partners, as well as maintaining the system to ensure you obtain consistent results.
He then provided a few examples of the LPR system in Cape Town, highlighting how information is captured and shared among trusted partners. He also stressed the importance of partnerships, not only between businesses, communities and security companies, but also with the relevant authorities – especially the police.
Once again the processes involved in the sharing of information indicating, for example, a vehicle of interest is in a specific area, was highlighted as a critical aspect of the programme’s success. When all the factors are integrated and working together, LPR intelligence will assist in convictions, and lower the success rate of criminals. Schäfer hopes to see the success of the system in Cape Town replicated in Gauteng and other areas in the near future.
Bernard Schäfer, LPR User Group
A user’s perspective
Mike Voortman, MD of Verifier and chairman of the Constantia Valley Watches Association as well as the Wynberg Sector 4 CPF closed the event with a presentation on a user’s perspective of LPR, as well as the returns on investment (ROI) that can be obtained when an LPR system functions effectively – as highlighted by Schäfer.
Voortman showed that LPR is more than simply collecting a database of number plates. The system needs to be online and function in real time. Moreover, various systems in different communities and business locations should share information with each other as well as the SAPS in order to deliver results.
Cape Town’s suburbs have a number of software platforms running to capture and share information. The system is set up in such a way that a stolen car, for example, once picked up by one camera, will have its location shared almost immediately. This allows the system to track the car through different areas and provide the police with relevant information to track and hopefully capture the criminal.
He then provided a few examples that show how Cape Town’s system operates, including an example of how LPR was able to identify suspected criminals as they drove into a retail location, before being apprehended by the law as they left the centre, following their intended victim.
Voortman ended his presentation with a quote from a shopping centre manager in Cape Town, who noted that their LPR system “assisted in the prevention of numerous potential incidents, and has facilitated the arrests of suspects wanted on current or outstanding cases – all leading to a general reduction in criminal activity both in and around our centre”.
Hi-Tech Security Solutions would like to thank the CGCRI for its cooperation in planning up the event, our sponsors (you can read more about them in the next few pages), as well as our presenters who imparted valuable knowledge and advice to help retailers secure their premises and people.
Mike Voortman, MD of Verifier and chairman of the Constantia Valley Watches Association