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Operators can shield their businesses from theft with updated, cost-effective security technology

Over the years, hospitality industry executives have focused more attention on identifying better security measures. Restaurant and hotel managers and operators increasingly are using security cameras in an effort to shore up facility safety by hunting down employees who carelessly break management’s trust in addition to guest and outsider crimes.

Gone are the days of conducting a simple background check on employees. Managers are now implementing state-of-the-art security cameras that are surprisingly affordable, helping them meet their overall bottom line and ensure the safety and security of their businesses.

Other global events have added to the renewed urgency to beef up security. With recent occurrences like Sept. 11 and the London Underground bombings still a large part of our daily memories, there is an increased interest in security and surveillance products. In fact, consulting firm Frost & Sullivan estimates that surveillance cameras will rise to be a $4.09 billion industry by 2010.

Traditionally, cost has been the biggest deterrent for installing a world-class security camera system. However, there are companies offering new and advanced security products that can be installed without the need for a costly professional. Starting at approximately $100 per camera, these security systems rely on digital video recorder, or DVR, technology that operates much like the TiVo units that record your favorite television shows.

Using cameras with motion detectors positioned inside and outside the property, the DVR can store as much as six months of video on its hard drive, depending on the level of video quality chosen. This storage capacity far outperforms the time-lapse security VCRs that other businesses have used for years.

Cameras are wired to a dedicated DVR that can play back or show live images on a television or monitor used for security purposes. Some businesses are opting for infrared cameras that can capture action even in the dark.

A DVR with an Internet connection would allow a manager to view activity from any computer in the world. These cameras start at around $300.What’s more, in place of a stand-alone DVR, the cameras can be linked to a computer using a PC-based DVR card that sells for $100. This would enable management to save for police the video of a theft or illegal activity by burning a DVD or downloading the images to a USB storage device.

Restaurants and hotels also can benefit from digital wireless camera capabilities, which provide clearer picture and sound and also transmit encrypted signal for privacy so thieves cannot intercept digital wireless transmission.

Most important, security industry experts point to the ease of installation for which these types of security cameras are known. While a professional expert would charge tens of thousands of dollars to outfit a restaurant or hotel, operators can leverage these new advanced cameras with cuttingedge technology and capabilities for far less of an investment.

Restaurant and hotel managers also like security cameras better than traditional siren-based alarm systems because they are able to capture and store critical evidence and actual footage. You cannot prosecute what you cannot prove, and security cameras offer the evidence that law enforcement officials need when identifying criminal activity and enforcing consequences. What’s more, footage can also be stored and presented to the hotel’s insurance company when reporting claims of stolen property, financial theft or customer liability cases.

Due to today’s unstable security environment as a result of terrorism threats, criminal advances and mistrusted employees, operators now face an increased possibility of security lapses in their facilities. The first priority will always be to provide safety to guests, and those that can provide continuous high-quality service will experience the highest guest satisfaction marks. For this reason alone, operators must consider implementing a high-quality surveillance system that leverages cutting-edge security cameras.

Think about the most vulnerable places on your site.

Popular locations for cameras include outside the front entrance, inside the front doorway, the back or service entrance, above or behind the cash register, a wide-angle view in the kitchen area, and such “blind” spots as stairwells and alleyways.

The best place to position your digital video recorder is in the administration area. If you have an office, put it there near your computer. If you don’t, have it in a secure cupboard or under a counter.

And think of the important thoroughfares to monitor.

Position a camera in the kitchen area to encourage your staff to adhere to food hygiene and OHS standards, and maximize team productivity.

Guy Pithie is vice president of the U.S. division of Swann Communications, a leading supplier of security cameras for the hospitality industry.

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