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Monitoring retail losses.

ALL RETAIL STORES EXPERIENCE losses due to some form of theft. The smaller the item and the larger the stock, the easier an item is to remove. These losses are insignificant to those that occur at the cash register from under ringing, failure to ring, and fraudulent refunds and voids.

Regardless of the actual dollar amount, when individual store losses occur throughout a chain, they can have a significant impact on corporate profits. This presents somewhat of a paradox to management.

While in-store theft represents a loss, installing a video security system in each store of a large chain represents a significant capital expenditure. Where profits are looked at yearly, such an expenditure can be difficult to justify.

In addition to installation costs, other expenses exist, such as maintenance, in-store monitoring by personnel, or tape review when time-lapse recording is used. At stores where theft is minimal, installing and operating a security system might be more costly than the actual losses.

When installing a security system proves effective, no method can transfer the equipment to other stores without the costs of reinstallation. Since this type of surveillance is mostly covert, installation costs are greater because of the need to hide cameras, monitors, recording equipment, and their wiring.

Until recently there was no middle ground. Based on in-store losses, the choices were either to install or not to install a security system. If capital was unavailable for additional systems, the choice would have to be made to move the system and bear the additional cost of reinstallation.

These were some of the considerations that faced Eckerd Drugs and Lewis Shealy, its vice president of loss prevention. Eckerd's problems were no different from any retail operation, but the need to cover 1,658 stores prevented installing a security system in each store. Even the idea of running temporary cable was unacceptable because of cost.

The solution was wireless video transmission. The technology to transmit video through open air is not new, but its use in security applications has been limited for several reasons.

First attempts at wireless transmission for security used microwave and required a site path survey, an individual Federal Communications Commission license, and usually the construction of an antenna tower for the necessary line of sight between transmitter and receiver antennas.

An alternative method was a laser system; however, its operating distances are short and its use raised potential health liabilities.

The best solution was to return to the basics--video transmission using radio frequency (RF). This method mirrors that of standard television and radio transmission. Its advantages lie in proven technology that has been in commercial operation since the late 1940s and lack of line-of-sight antenna alignment previously required.

Its popularity has also resulted in one major disadvantage. Through the years, the RF spectrum has become increasingly crowded, limiting the amount of open channels. Concern has focused on available space and the potential for equipment interference.

That changed two years ago when Wireless Technology was given permission to operate a wireless video transmission system. Issuing this certification allowed users to transmit video through open air without having to obtain an individual site license. The system also included a patent filter system, which insured that transmissions would be secure from unauthorized reception.

"The complete system, including cameras, monitors, and cabling takes less than an hour to install," states Shealy. "The ability to operate for more than 30 hours using the portable battery supply means we don't have to spend time looking for power sources. The ability to power the system from a battery also allows us to monitor a store from a car in an adjacent parking lot. We can even continue the monitoring while the car is moving."

The system has enabled coverage to be provided to all stores without the expense of actually installing equipment in each store. Those stores with the greatest problems receive the most attention. When the problem subsides, the system is removed and transferred to the next location. Shealy has even started a policy of random store checks using the system.

"Our surveillance costs are down and productivity is up," says Shealy. "The advent of wireless video is the most important piece of modern technology on the market today. Using the system greatly enhances the capability of our department."
COPYRIGHT 1992 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Jack Eckerd Corp. Eckerd Drug Co.'s use of wireless video transmission systems
Author:Heller, Neil
Publication:Security Management
Date:Jun 1, 1992
Previous Article:Securing America's new town centers.
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