May 24 2023

Enhanced Video Surveillance Reveals Retail Shrinkage, but Who Monitors the Feeds?

While vital, artificial intelligence is no substitute for live, human monitoring of video feeds. Here’s a unique way to make it happen.

When it comes to preventing loss and keeping customers and employees safe, today’s retailers are confronting bolder and more sophisticated criminals. Gone are the days when retail shrinkage was a mere nuisance, mostly a matter of young people shoplifting low quantities of small items.

Many of today’s retail threat actors are professionals for whom theft is a career. For example, in New York City last year, nearly a third of all shoplifting arrests involved just 327 people. “Collectively, they were arrested and rearrested more than 6,000 times,” The New York Times reports. Many work as part of organized retail crime rings whose tactics are becoming more sophisticated and audacious.

“Retailers, on average, saw a 26.5 percent increase in ORC incidents in 2021,” notes the National Retail Federation in its 2022 Retail Security Survey. “Beyond the loss of goods, these incidents are increasingly alarming. Eight in 10 retailers surveyed report that the violence and aggression associated with ORC incidents increased in the past year.”

Retailers are responding in a number of ways, including deploying advanced video surveillance systems, powered by artificial intelligence, that can alert store personnel to activities with behaviors known to be associated with criminal activity.

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Retailers Increase Their Use of AI-Powered Video

According to the NRF, 52.4 percent of retailers are increasing budgets specifically for capital and equipment. “Retailers are implementing a variety of technological solutions, from artificial intelligence-based video analytics at point of sale/self-checkout to self-service locking cases, autonomous security robots and license plate recognition,” the NRF notes.

Retailers are increasing their deployment of advanced video the most at checkout stations. Stores’ increasing use of self-checkout technology has helped mitigate chronic staff shortages and move customers through the checkout process more efficiently, but it’s also come with an increase in shrinkage.

Common self-checkout theft tactics include ticket and product switching, where individuals use barcodes from less expensive items to ring up more expensive items. Meanwhile, at staffed checkout stations, retailers are battling tactics such as “sweethearting,” where employees provide a friend or associate favorable treatment when ringing up items. Transactions where there is no customer present at all also is often a sign the transaction is fraudulent.

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Live Video Monitoring Is Simple and Effective

In all such cases, video surveillance is a critical defense. The AI within the advanced systems can often alert store personnel to potential crimes in progress. However, even the most advanced AI can not take the place of real-time video monitoring by live humans.

“A number of incidents may occur when authorities are off site or when malls and retail locations are closed, including break-ins, theft, vandalism, and trespassing,” notes video camera manufacturer Verkada on its website. That’s why the ability to monitor video feeds live and remotely is a key element of any enhanced video system, the company says.

One unique approach is provided by OnView, which combines video surveillance systems with monitoring and a range of technology planning and deployment services. The OnView service also provides something more: It uses two-way radio communication to “address and ward off the potential criminal activity,” writes Chris Black, CDW’s Internet of Things and digital transformation practice leader, in a recent blog post.

READ MORE: Three ways AI-powered video reduces retail theft.

“This system is simple and effective,” Black writes. “Agent responses can range from simple verbal warnings that the area is being monitored to alerting individuals that the police have been summoned.”

Is such deterrence effective? Black says that it is: “Firsthand accounts from some of my retail customers suggest that the OnView deterrent approach has greatly reduced theft and other nuisance behavior in their stores and on their properties.” Moreover, he says, the video captured by OnView systems becomes evidence police can use should criminal charges become necessary.

Retailers are challenged by a multimodal threat landscape, both in physical stores and cyberspace, that’s characterized by increasingly sophisticated threat actors. An enhanced video surveillance system, monitored live by trained security professionals, is one vital piece of the solution.


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