Keeping Retail Staff Safer: Using Body Cameras to Deter Violence and Intimidation.
Last year, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson stated that crimes of violence against shopworkers would not be tolerated as the country went into a national lockdown. Frontline retail employees were subsequently tasked with ensuring that shoppers adhered to social distancing rules and wore face coverings.
All too often, retail workers have faced threats, abuse and assault as they go about their job. A recent BRC report reveals the true scale of what is becoming a significant and growing problem. According to the report, more than 150,000 incidents of abuse and violence occur every year – that’s 455 incidents every day – with 90 percent of retailers now identifying the abuse of their staff as a top issue.
Violence and abuse is becoming endemic
The pandemic appears to have escalated and normalised anti-social behaviour against shop workers to such an extent that retailers now want action. To combat the rising tide of violence, retailers want abuse against shop workers to become a statutory offence. The hope is that this will improve the prosecution and reporting of such crimes – which typically occur when shopworkers are simply enforcing the law by undertaking, for example, age-restricted sales checks.
In June, a new report by the Home Affairs Committee called for a stronger policing response to tackle the escalating problem of unacceptable violence against shop workers. It also recommended the creation of an Employers Charter that sets out how employers should support and protect staff. While many retailers have already grasped the benefits of implementing fixed video surveillance to protect their public-facing staff and stock, recent advancements in body worn camera technologies now offer significant advantages when it comes to keeping people safer.
Commercial body cameras – an essential 21st century technology tool
In recent years, body worn camera technology has evolved to become a truly wearable technology that is ideal for accurately recording incidents and keeping front line workers safer when dealing with members of the public.
UK police forces have long recognised the benefits of utilising body cameras to provide reliable evidence, maintain public perceptions and confidence in law enforcement legitimacy, and prevent crime. Individuals often change their behaviour towards officers when they know they are being recorded, which in turn can help prevent certain situations from escalating. Captured video provides corroborating evidence of how events unfolded and can also be used to train personnel in the best strategies to use in challenging situations.
Initially reserved for law enforcement, there have been some major developments since the technology was first introduced two decades ago. Today’s body cams are smaller, lighter, offer better performance and greater reliability, and are considerably more versatile than before.
In particular, new high speed data connectivity and more advanced features such as two-way audio, geo-tagging, and alarm features have all added to the effectiveness today’s commercial body camera wearers enjoy.
Exploring the benefits of cloud-based connectivity
The arrival of body cams supported by cloud-based connectivity makes it commercially realistic for retailers to implement these highly advanced cameras on affordable long-term subscriptions. The use of a cloud infrastructure means it’s now possible to manage a large number of cameras online – all of which can be monitored from a control room. In the same cloud video management platform, video from both fixed cameras and body cameras can also be reviewed, instead of having different applications for each.
Cloud-based video surveillance makes it possible to access and share video anywhere, receive real-time alerts the moment an incident is detected, and undertake real-time remote viewing and direct-to-cloud recording. By streaming live video to a monitoring or security operations centre and using geo-tagging, retailers are able to provide their users with immediate response and support.
By utilising today’s professional-grade body camera services, retailers can both improve staff safety and accountability, and instantly provide valuable evidence to the police. Plus, the integration of analytics and AI technologies has enabled the creation of truly smart solutions that can track and interpret video to provide insight across an increasing range of use cases. All of which makes it possible for security managers to receive alerts under specific circumstances, against certain rules, or when those wearing the cameras wish to trigger one.
Unleashing a new era of retail protection and security
The adoption of body cams has been on the increase in sectors like healthcare and in-home service workers to dissuade aggression, improve accountability and reduce false acquisitions. Usage has been accelerating as a result of the pandemic, and commercial body cam usage in sectors like retail is now emerging to help deter unacceptable behaviour and criminal acts.
Sadly, encountering violence and aggression from members of the public is becoming the daily reality for millions of UK shopworkers. Fortunately, body cams and high quality video that are designed to protect front-line teams and create safe and secure settings for shoppers are now available in the UK and EU.
Enabling retailers to exercise their duty of care for employees and to deter the escalating levels of violence and intimidation they face, today’s cloud-connected body cams can help defuse flashpoint situations when, for example, customers know they are going to be filmed and that what they say and do will be made available to the police as evidence. By empowering staff to conduct their duties in the knowledge that they are supported in everything they do, retailers can leverage this powerful technology to better protect employees, shoppers and the wider community.
Credit: Rishi Lodhia, EMEA MD at Eagle Eye Networks