Putting a Face to Organized Retail Crime

By Jordan Rivchun, Leader, Retail & Banking Solutions & Strategy, North America, Hanwha Techwin America and Kevin Darnell, BDM, Retail Solutions & Strategy, Hanwha Techwin America

In the loss prevention world, there are many challenges including external theft, internal theft, and organizational issues that come into play. Depending on the location, internal shrink might be significant, or grab-and-runs, bad checks, even child endangerment. Of all the challenges, perhaps none is bigger than organized retail crime (ORC) rings that specifically target retail environments with repeated, concentrated assaults. For these professional thieves, also known as “boosters”, this is not a crime of opportunity, it’s their day job. After they hit a store, they’ll move onto another one, perhaps in another city in an endless cycle. They are organized and relentless, costing retailers tens of billions of dollars per year.

Because these thieves know what they are doing, they evade video surveillance cameras by never looking up and almost always wear hats to mask their faces from conventional ceiling or wall mounted cameras. They frequently go into a store to discover where cameras and merchandise are located before they act. After the event, loss prevention professionals may have little to offer the police if they can’t present a clear face from a security system. It’s frustrating for end-users and the police, but it’s a scenario that plays out every day in stores all over the world. Fortunately, there’s a secret weapon that can change the game: the door jamb or mullion camera.

Door Jamb and Mullion Cameras to the Rescue

Digital Partners

These small, unique cameras can be placed directly at eye level in the sides of a door frame (Side Jambs) or in the vertical casing that separates a door frame from other glass panels (Mullions). Just because they’re small, it doesn’t mean they can’t deliver crisp, clear, HD quality video images. Being mounted at the door, they can capture perfect face shots as criminals leave the building. Even if someone is wearing a hat with the brim very low, they still need to look up to find the door, and it’s at that moment where these cameras deliver the goods time after time. Because they don’t look like cameras, and they’re facing into the store, thieves never imagine they are staring at a camera when they are looking at the door to make a quick exit. It’s the loss prevention professional’s ultimate weapon.

“If I had a choice of having only one camera in a retail store, I would choose a door jamb camera every single time,” said Norm Smaligo, president of the Oklahoma Retail Crime Association. “They deliver a face shot every time.” Smaligo explained that individuals involved in ORC are typically well known to loss prevention professionals. Networking and sharing information is a major benefit for members of groups like the Oklahoma Retail Crime Association. “If you don’t know who that person is, the odds are one of your peers will, but without that all important face shot, you’re out of luck,” he said.

“When it comes to ORC, we usually see many of the same people involved. Traditional security cameras frequently miss the face, which is the single most important piece of evidence we need. The Hanwha door jamb cameras are what delivers that all important face shot that can lead to a conviction.” – Norm Smaligo, Oklahoma Organized Retail Crime Association

Traditionally, cameras have been mounted out of reach to prevent them from getting hit, damaged, or tampered with in some way. The downside of having all surveillance cameras mounted higher is that it limits how close you can get to a person’s face to truly capture unique identifying characteristics needed by law enforcement. The close we can get, the more pixels available to capture the face in high resolution. As light changes throughout the day, it’s also important to have sensors with wide dynamic range that can function in different lighting environments. Because these cameras are designed to be covert, it’s also important to be able to choose from a variety of form factors and colors to ensure a camera blends into the surrounding door material. They should also be capable of integrating into height strips.

Beyond retail theft, these same cameras can be invaluable for other scenarios, such as child endangerment or missing children. Because of the unique perspective they provide, displaying the customer point of view upon entering a store, they are also used on a daily basis to “see what the shopper sees.” Are the displays set up correctly? Is the store clean and will it make a positive first impression? They can also be used in places that a traditional camera just won’t fit, such as a supply closet or breakroom. For these reasons and so many more, door jamb/mullion cameras are more popular than ever.

Hanwha Techwin Solutions

There are two parts to a high-quality door jamb or mullion camera system: the tiny lens module that fits in the door frame and the remotely mounted camera main module that holds all the electronics. The SLA-T4680VA 4.6mm pinhole 2MP lens module offers a 73º field of view and can pair with a single XNB-6001 2MP Covert Main Camera Module. When multiple doors or areas are to be covered, a four channel 2MP PNM-9000QB Remote Head Camera Main module supports four simultaneous covert cameras and uses only one license in a VMS (Video Management System). The PNM-9000QB includes H.265/H.264 and WiseStream II compression technology. It features Hanwha’s extreme WDR (wide dynamic range) for excellent performance in varying lighting conditions and a full complement of video analytics and sound detection.

The two-part design of these covert cameras means that there is no compromise in image quality. They can detect tampering, loitering while performing queue management and other motion analytic functions. For maximum flexibility, the camera main module can be powered by either PoE or with 12volt DC.

A door jam or mullion camera is a key component in any retail video surveillance system. For more information, visit the Hanwha Techwin America website.


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