Magazine article Security Management

Talking Turkey

Magazine article Security Management

Talking Turkey

Article excerpt

Despite the booming economy, crime in fast food stores, whether from outsiders or employees, remains a problem. Dan O'Bresky, a franchisee owning eleven Minneapolisarea Subway sandwich shops, turned to CCTV to help him protect employees from criminals and his own profits from insider theft.

When he bought his first system several years ago, O'Bresky experienced numerous problems. But he went back to the market in search of better options. Today, he says that the technology is finally living up to his expectations.

The first installations were black and white CCD systems, with three or four cameras per store. The systems helped, but criminals got gutsier, says O'Bresky.

Moreover, system limitations often meant that O'Bresky couldn't gather enough evidence to confront a thieving employee. For example, he couldn't correlate register activity with the CCTV images.

The original surveillance systems had other problems as well. "They [invariably] broke at the worst times," O'Bresky says. Poor image quality was another concern. And it was not uncommon for managers to forget to rotate the tapes, thus potentially taping over important evidence.

Over time, O'Bresky added text insertion, a feature that overlaid register activity onto corresponding CCTV footage, to some systems. For example, if an employee entered a no sale, the tape would show that such an activity had occurred by superimposing the appropriate language on the corresponding segment of the videotape. While text insertion was valuable, there was no way to search an employee's activity, such as by no sale entries, during a shift. The store manager would have to plow through endless videotape. Also, the superimposed text sometimes concealed important footage underneath.

About a year ago, O'Bresky began scanning the Internet and talking to security dealers, in search of a surveillance system with more advanced capabilities and features, such as digital data storage and remote surveillance capability. Having an extensive background in the computer industry, O'Bresky explored PC-based devices but found that most were prone to frequent crashes.

PC-based setups required store managers to understand the nuances of operating systems. Some systems lacked text insertion ability or had limited motion detection capability. Finally, most PC-based equipment used MPEG or JPEG data compression, which O'Bresky says produced smaller, less detailed images than he desired.

While searching online, O'Bresky discovered Digital Detective, by Digital Processing Systems, Inc. (DPS), of Markham, Ontario, Canada. A non-PC-based digital video time-lapse/event recorder CCTV system, Digital Detective consists of a digital disk recorder, which is a unit that resembles a stereo receiver. The recorder has a built-in multiplexer that supports up to four cameras.

Although Digital Detective uses internal PC components, notably SCSI hard drives, O'Bresky does not consider the system to be PC-based. That's because it does not use a PC monitor or keyboard.

The unit also features motion detection, remote surveillance ability, and integrated text insertion. For the latter feature to work, the unit must be connected to cash registers via connections akin to printer cables.

O'Bresky tested the system for two months, interfacing it with cash registers to appraise the text insertion feature. "The prototype worked right out of the gate," O'Bresky says. "We had zero failures." Because Digital Detective saves cash register activity as a text file (which it then synchronizes with the corresponding segment of video), O'Bresky was happy to find that it could search such activity. …

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