Retail Security Security not child's play
Retail Security Security not child's play

Nov 1, 1998 12:00 PM
Don Garbera

FAO Schwarz enhances its upscale security system to accommodate store expansion and higher potential for theft. Security staff at the famous New York toy store FAO Schwarz recently noticed a customer examining a lock on a product display case. Discreetly, they kept an eye on the man as he traveled through the store, stopping at display cases containing expensive products to observe the locks on them. Eventually, the suspicious character entered an area filled with unconfined expensive toys where he picked up an item. Members of FAO Schwarz's security team watched the man from the control room, as the cameras recorded him leaving the store without paying for the merchandise. But they were not worried. They knew other members of the team were waiting outside. The thief was apprehended and held until officers from the New York Police Department (NYPD) arrived to arrest him. "We've apprehended everyone from the career criminal that makes the rounds of all New York City stores, to even the son of a prominent TV network executive," says Joseph J. Caparella III, vice president of operations/inventory control. He oversees the 30-member security force for the 70,000-square-foot premier specialty store that provides unusual, trend-setting and rare collectible toys and attracts celebrities and other high-profile customers. Profiled by Access Control & Security Systems Integration magazine in March 1995 for its upscale security system, FAO Schwarz has since continued to improve and upgrade its system, primarily because of store expansion. A higher potential for theft has resulted in a complex, highly efficient system that rivals, if not surpasses, other similar retail security operations, Caparella says. Part of a nationwide chain of 38 stores, the flagship store in the heart of Manhattan has passed through many changes since 1995, when it was 55,000 square feet and the security staff was half its present size. Then, the staff only had to worry about two entrances. Today, the store has five. "A positive presence, along with magazine stories, has gotten the word out in the community that we take security very seriously at FAO Schwarz," Caparella says. "Unlike some other similar retail operations in the area, we have a proprietary security staff that consists of dedicated and loyal employees." Since 1995, the CCTV system has been upgraded to include digital imaging, and the store has switched from using conventional pan-and-tilt cameras in 14-inch domes to integrated mini-Spectra high-speed, 5-inch domes that house Pelco cameras. The lens incorporates digital zoom capabilities from 360 degrees wide-angle to 99X telephoto. The control room includes thirty 9-inch, black-and-white Panasonic monitors, two 18-inch Panasonic and Sony call-up monitors, a 16-camera Gyyr multiplexer, a Pelco 8500 matrix switcher and Panasonic AGRT 600 digital recorders. Caparella is phasing out a card system used for employee identification and tracking. He plans to install software to use the Northern card access system, already being used with Kronos Time-Keeping System to secure numerous doors in the administrative and back-of-store areas. The upgrade has resulted in a decrease in losses during peak store hours, he says. "With the Kronos and Northern systems, we know exactly when an employee swiped his or her card," Caparella says. "Prior to this upgrade, we had to have the doors manned by security personnel during those hours. Now we can re-deploy these man-hours to the selling floor." The Northern card system covers more than 14 areas, including the cash and payroll offices, the store's main entrance, the administrative offices, the employee entrance and the back-of-house operations. Caparella anticipates that using the Northern product for identification and tracking will facilitate tighter control. "If employees leave or are discharged, they can be easily eliminated from the system," he says. The store also relies on a management team to help maintain a security presence. Each of the 15-plus department managers and six senior executives carry two-way Motorola Radius SP50 radios at all times. They communicate among themselves, and also with the security staff. "Having so many people traveling through the store carrying walkie-talkies provides a show of heavy security presence as well," Caparella says. ADT and Holmes Protection alarm systems provide perimeter protection, as do ADEMCO motion detectors. Working in conjunction with the CCTV system, the alarms and motion detectors pick up after-hours unauthorized activity - and immediately alert the NYPD. Caparella's operation works closely with the NYPD to apprehend pick-pockets, unauthorized vendors doing business in front of the store and, in particular, scam artists. "We worked closely with the NYPD's anti-crime unit during the fourth quarter of last year to lower the amount of opportunistic crimes within the store," he says. FAO Schwarz has had 200 apprehensions and 80 recoveries thus far this year - and the holiday season will bring even more. Caparella and his staff will continue to look at new and innovative equipment and upgrade current equipment, he says. "Our mission is to protect the store's property and the honest buying public from undesirable public elements," Caparella says.

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