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Interactive security.

When Crown Central Petroleum of Baltimore, Maryland, decided to beef up security at its 450 convenience stores throughout the south and eastern United States, Security Manager Bill Campbell chose to bring together equipment from a variety of manufacturers to develop a customized system that would provide remote surveillance, along with two-way communications between the stores and a central command station.

The heart of Crown's interactive phone line audio/video surveillance system consists of a camera, microphone, and speaker installed at the outlet. When choosing the equipment, Campbell first looked for commercial-quality equipment that met the company's technical specifications and then shopped for the lowest price. In some cases, the choice was made easier because of a limited number of options. For example, Robot Research is one of the few companies that markets the video transmission equipment necessary for the system.

Campbell says that Crown is constantly reviewing available equipment and store needs and updating as necessary. For example, Campbell found that the video recorders first installed in the stores were too complicated for employees to operate. The recorders were replaced with a less complicated and less expensive Toshiba model that fulfills the same requirements.

The complete audio/video surveillance system, currently installed in 100 of Crown's Zippy Mart and Fast Fare stores, operates via two phone lines to the central monitoring station. One line is dedicated to video and the other is a regular store line. In addition, store personnel can communicate with the central station in three ways: a telephone handset-like instrument with three buttons that signal high priority, medium priority, and test; a money clip kept in the cash register that automatically signals a high priority when the "bait money" held underneath it is removed, as during a robbery; and a portable button instrument that employees can carry with them to signal a high-priority alarm to the central station.

The buttons activate the alarm and dial the remote monitoring center. At the remote center, located in Rock Hill, South Carolina, a screen immediately appears with all the relevant information about that location, including cross streets and local police and fire department information.

An intervention specialist in Rock Hill is now listening and watching what's happening. He or she can immediately call the police by hitting a button. The intervention specialist can describe to the police exactly what is happening in the store because he or she is seeing it on the screen. In some cases, the police have been able to arrive and apprehend the suspect as he is leaving the store.

The communication with the central station does not have to originate with an employee activated alarm. Intervention specialists can call up any store with the system. "They just dial in and listen and watch employees on a shift," says Campbell. This is done periodically and randomly with each store to reduce internal theft.

Coronet Security Systems, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Crown, staffs the monitoring station twenty-four hours a day. Five intervention specialists handle the console position, and the staff includes one supervisor and one receptionist or secretary. One intervention specialist is on duty at all times. He or she can handle up to 200 locations.

The surveillance equipment is highly visible and Campbell says the stores that have the system have shown savings from reduced theft of more than $300 per month. He adds that the system works so well it is being marketed to other companies.
COPYRIGHT 1993 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Security Works; Crown Central Petroleum Corp. security system
Publication:Security Management
Date:May 1, 1993
Words:573
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