Continuity | Risk

Ask the Expert: I'm a Small Business Owner, Do I Really Need Cameras in My Establishment?

February 6, 2020 | 3 min read
Dummy camera small business scaled
A local small business, a boutique for high-end women’s clothing, recently had an incident of theft. An employee’s purse was in the back room, and she discovered on a break that her credit cards were missing. When she called her credit card company, she discovered that her cards were being used at a nearby Wal-Mart and the thieves charged over $4,000. The owner suspected that inventory might be missing as well, but there was no way to quickly check, or even to see who the thief was — although the boutique has cameras, they’re dummy cameras. They weren’t filming. Ask the expert: You heard a rumor about sexual harassment but no one reported it. What should you do?

The problem with dummy cameras

A dummy camera is a camera that’s not connected, and not filming. It’s there for show, to hopefully deter thieves who think they’re being filmed. The problem is that cameras don’t deter thieves — shoplifting is alive and well in the U.S. According to Jack L. Hayes International’s Annual Retail Theft Survey, more than 279,000 shoplifters and dishonest employees were caught by 20 large retailers in 2018. These large retailers almost certainly have obvious and working cameras, but people are stealing anyhow. Another problem — dummy cameras may increase your liability (especially if you’ve posted signs pointing out your cameras). Why? If a crime, like an assault, happens in your establishment, the victim may have rightly expected that the assault was recorded. If not, they may turn their ire (and litigation) on you. The most unfortunate thing about dummy cameras is that working cameras aren’t much more expensive and they’re effective. Security cameras are one of the cheapest security measures you can take to protect your assets. They make a real difference in securing your establishment and catching perpetrators if an event should happen. Ask the Expert: How Can I Improve My Guard Force?

Where to place cameras

You don’t need that many cameras if you’re a small business. You do, however, need cameras in a few key locations: The entrances and exits: You want to see who is entering and leaving your establishment. You also want to have a line or some other indicator of height at those locations. It could be a line on the wall at six feet, for example. That will allow you to give the police a more accurate description of a perpetrator if you’re ever robbed. Your cash register: You want eyes on your register, both in case of a robbery and to keep an eye on employees. You should invest in a good point-of-sale system that will help prevent electronic fraud as well. The entrance to changing areas: While you can’t have a camera in any area where customers have a reasonable expectation of privacy, you should certainly monitor the ingress and egress of your changing area. This will show you if someone walked in with more items than they walked out with. Another concern is that sexual harassment or assaults can take place in a changing area. Employee-only areas: It’s important to monitor back rooms to prevent theft of employees’ personal possessions or store inventory, or other illegal behavior. High asset areas: Any area of your establishment that’s home to high-priced items, like jewelry counters or purses, should be monitored.

Cameras: an important security measure for small businesses

A single robbery can cost your business more than what’s been stolen, especially if you’re using dummy cameras. You can suffer reputational damage, you can find yourself on the wrong side of a liability lawsuit, or you may find yourself explaining to your insurers why your cameras aren’t connected. Working security cameras are a small investment with a big impact when it comes to securing your business. Have a question or scenario you would like to be answered next month? Email Dan and submit your question!

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