All eyes on you

stockxpertcom_id1108_size4Closed circuit television offers a world of protection for business owners as well as their staff. Dominique Antarakis eyes off the best options.

Director of security technology manufacturer Omnivision, Gareth Hill, says choosing the right closed circuit television (CCTV) system depends on the owner: particularly, what they want to achieve and how much they are willing to spend.

“At the lowest end, a fish and chip shop or milk bar could probably go for a basic solution, which is a stand-alone digital video recorder (DVR). The next level is a PC-based video recorder that connects to a Windows-based computer system.”

A more sophisticated option is ‘till integration’, with CCTV connected to the point-of-sale (POS) system.

“POS systems are pretty sophisticated these days, but they can’t tell you when and how someone’s fiddling the till,” Hill says.

But with a PC-integrated camera over the till, you can get a receipt for every transaction and connect
that to the video footage. Every time an item is rung up on the till, it also comes up on the screen as text. You can correlate what’s being rung up and what you’re seeing on-screen.

Chad Egan, sales manager at Securetrac, agrees that most restaurants use CCTV systems to control stock or cash loss—or in other words, to combat internal theft.

“Bars and restaurants that sell liquor can definitely benefit. There’s stock loss from sweetheart deals—people giving stuff away to their mates—but also from overpouring and undercharging; or charging the right amount, serving something bigger, and pocketing the difference.

“If you suspect someone is pouring bourbon and cokes and selling them as cokes, you can watch the footage to see what they poured and what they keyed in.”

One Securetrac client, Marriner Theatres, found stock misappropriation went from nine per cent to just 2.5 per cent, while cash variance took a dive from 11 per cent to 1.5 per cent after installing CCTV cameras in their theatres.

And of course it’s not just useful for monitoring staff. If a customer comes back and says, ‘I gave you a $100 note but you only gave me change for $50’, you can go to the system and search for all situations where $100 was tendered. You can immediately tell what note was tendered from the footage, and what was rung up at the time.

According to Hill, the technology has advanced in recent years to be able to record only when there’s motion. And it can tell the difference between, say, a person and a small animal like a cat or a dog.

“So, you can tell the system there should be no-one on the premises after a certain time of day. Then, if it senses anyone, it will alert you by sending an SMS to your mobile phone. You can investigate straight away.”

One Omnivision client, Leslie Abrahams, owner of two restaurant franchises, says her system has saved many 20-minute drives at two in the morning for a false alarm.

Where it really comes into its own is for business owners like Abrahams who operate several locations, because you can monitor what’s going on from a central location like an office or home.

“You can effectively manage your managers and staff without having to be on-site all the time,” says Hill. “You can see whether it’s busy, whether it’s clean, whether the staff are working, what time they are clocking on and off. You can integrate access and CCTV for payroll purposes, so you know if someone says they’re arriving at 7.30am but are really starting at 8.30.”

Abrahams agrees that it frees up her management style. “I went home to Canada for six weeks and was still able to run the businesses from there,” she says. “I could watch the business over the internet, any time of the day or night. It was brilliant.”

The amount you pay for CCTV depends on a number of factors, including how large the site is, whether you want indoor and outdoor surveillance, and how many cameras you need.

“The technology is there. Whether the cost is viable for  a business is another matter,” Hill says. “When we get an enquiry, we always visit the site before we give a quote. We find out what the business owner is looking for and what they want to pay. If they have unrealistic expectations, we need to either demonstrate that there is a cost benefit to putting in a better system, or scale back their expectations to match the price point.

“One customer has a restaurant that seats 200—they’ve had 14 or 15 cameras installed at a cost of $20,000. For five cameras, you’re looking at about $7000 upwards. We work mostly with service stations, nightclubs and chains—places where security concerns are a real issue.”

Many providers offer a payment plan option, which can start from $10 a day.

Abrahams took the payment plan option the first time she installed a CCTV system with Omnivision, which she says cost her around $7000 for six cameras. “I know a lot of restaurants don’t want to
pay that much, but it’s worth its weight in gold.”

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