System discourages dishonesty for fine collectibles retailer
System discourages dishonesty for fine collectibles retailer

Sep 1, 2001 12:00 PM

Aldeman's, a fine antique and estate jewelry specialty retailer with two stores in San Antonio, combats retail theft by incorporating a custom-fit CCTV system into the security plan at its thriving downtown shop. J. Aldeman has been in the antique business with his partner, Richard Ravicks, for more than 30 years. The main store is located downtown at the Menger Hotel, across from the infamous Alamo. The downtown store originally opened as an antique shop, adding estate jewelry to the collection about 10 years ago. A great location for conventioneers and tourists alike, Aldeman's boasts traffic of up to 100 visitors in a single day, with summer being the busiest season. CCTV cameras monitor the shoppers and safeguard the precious accoutrements at the downtown location.

The second store, located in Lincoln Heights Shopping Mall, at Broadway and Basse, houses the larger antique furniture. This store has just one case of estate jewelry. Security consists of an alarm system with a timer and a lockable door with an access buzzer that controls contact to the fine furniture and collectibles. For Aldeman's, as for many small retail businesses, the loss of even one piece of property could be significant. Each item of the fine art, porcelain, estate jewelry, silver and furniture collection is unique, and most cannot be replaced. A loss of one of the priceless pieces spurred management to install an electronic CCTV camera system to deter shoplifting and protect valuable assets. With the assistance of Darryl Moses from ADT's San Antonio branch, Adelman's currently uses a CCTV system consisting of six Philips CCD cameras: five in the storefront and one in the back office. Four LTC 0350 cameras were placed in strategic locations along with two TC 550 high-resolution cameras for redundant coverage behind the jewelry cases. High-resolution cameras with 2.5-6 mm auto-iris lenses were chosen to counterbalance the backlighting from the large hotel windows at the front and side of the store. The video image from these higher-resolution cameras does not deteriorate the clarity.

Although Aldeman's has never been robbed at gunpoint, prior to the new CCTV install, thieves had entered the shop undetected. The electronic security system is designed to dissuade that from happening. While no retailer wants to appear as an armed fortress, experts agree, visible security systems not only help to deter potential criminals but also heightens shoppers' comfort. CCTV cameras are clearly visible at Aldeman's, and decals are evident on the estate jewelry and collectible cases, warning shoppers that the property is under surveillance 24-hours a day.

"It's just an added security thing," says John Powell, site manager at the downtown store. "We feel a lot better with the decals acting as a deterrent. Since installing the cameras about six months ago and adding the decals to the cases, we haven't really had anything stolen."

Moses made sure each critical area in the one-room store has substantial coverage from at least one camera, leaving no dead spots where a thief could steal without being seen.

A misconception about CCTV cameras is that they can see more than the naked eye. It is, however, paramount that the cameras be positioned so that they have a straight line-of-sight to the desired view. A person's field-of-view is about 35-degrees horizontal, ignoring peripheral vision, or, in camera terms, a 1/3-inch imager with a standard 8 mm lens. The view approximates a person's vision if they were standing at the camera location. If the camera must be at a greater distance, a stronger telephotographic lens can be used to produce the same image, or a wider lens if the camera mount is close to the scene.

"We are happy with the install," says Powell. "All the corners are covered, and the wide view of the cameras allow for redundant coverage; in fact, they overlap considerably. The more angles of the room the camera can capture, the better. We like these cameras because of the wide view."

The balance of the system is stored in the back office area. Aldeman's uses an LTC 2632 Series Philips multiplexer, which processes video from each of the six cameras and features pause and zoom capabilities. The mux also allows the operator to switch to any one particular camera while the LTC 3924 video recorder stores the images from all the cameras onto one analog tape. "With the multiplexer unit, we can see all six cameras at once on the monitor," says Powell. "Then, I can bring up one particular camera and zoom in with three-times zoom."

All cameras in the system are programmed to record at all times. Tapes at Aldeman's are changed daily. In case of an incident, tapes can be marked, saved and given to the police for evidence.

With retail jobs being a high-risk occupation, CCTV also gives employees a greater sense of security. "All employees feel a little more comfortable about the workplace environment with the security system intact," says Powell.

Powell contends the CCTV system is intimidating and keeps the honest people honest. But if somebody wants something bad enough, they will find a way to get it. "We've been fortunate," continues Powell. "When the dishonest people think that you aren't looking, the camera is always looking."

Powell was not extensively trained with electronic security systems and has only been using CCTV since the install, but he finds the equipment easy to operate.

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