securing the front line

Combining both top-of-the-line technology and in-depth training, Circle K is taking strong steps in the field of cash management.

Cash management and security are essential components of any c-store operation. Retail venues of all types run high risks of robbery- from both internal and external sources-but c-stores face a higher risk due to the inherent nature of the business. For example, stores tend to be open 24 hours and have smaller overnight staffs to deal with the large volume of customers that occupy the store during later hours.

For these reasons, through the years, potential robbers perceived c-stores as "easy targets." But strong advances in security and cash management are enabling retailers to take more elaborate steps to protect their stores, employees and cash.

There is a plethora of security and cash management technologies available for retail operators, but determining what kind of equipment is right for protecting a store can become a confusing and costly endeavor. After all, even if a store has the most advanced security technologies, how effective will it be if store associates are unable to use it?

Finding the Tools for the Job
According to Kirk Luke, director of loss prevention for more than 300 Circle K stores on the West Coast, effective cash management and security is only as reliable as the retailer’s dedication to his goals.

"Cash management is an ongoing problem with any company," Luke said. "When looking at any program, you need to look at what the outcome will be and then how do you get to that point in your program."

Luke, who has been working in retail loss prevention for 22 years, believes several things need to be examined when determining an effective cash management system: the stores’ cash levels, controls, opportunities for internal theft and external robbery deterrents. Other factors need to be evaluated as well, such as the amount of cash kept in the register, camera systems, lighting and visibility, the set up of entrances and exits, full-sized window displays and any kind of fencing or barriers around the stores that could impede a robber’s escape.

Only after determining the effectiveness of these innate conditions on a store-by-store basis will a retailer be able to figure out a trustworthy security method to fit each location’s needs.

"Security is not just looking at your physical surroundings, but what could happen from a global perspective," Luke said.

As for Circle K, it’s already figured out what works best for its operations. The company has implemented a variety of cutting-edge security technologies, such as color cameras with digital video recording (DVR) and a point-of-sale (POS) interface. Many stores also use POS safes with bill validators, and some utilize POS equipment with cash controls that require the manager to review void, refunds and "no sales" in order to prevent shrink.

Interactive video security methods have also become an important facet in a retailers’ cash management repertoire. In Circle K’s case, Westec’s iVR surveillance equipment has been particularly helpful in monitoring the safety of some locations. Employees have access to panic buttons-which can be located in a variety of places, such as around the employees neck, under the counter, even in the cash register drawer-that alert the Westec’s monitoring center when a situation arises. A security expert at the monitoring center then uses the camera and voice-over technology to remotely secure the situation and call the appropriate authorities if necessary.

Interactive security has not only been effective at helping Circle K with outside threats, but it has also played a large part in deterring employee theft as well.
"It not only gives a comfort level for our employees, but it also has a ‘Big Brother’ effect, so to speak, since employees never really know if someone is dialing in and watching them," said Luke.

While there are a number of hi-tech, intricate security technologies that can be used to control cash management, Luke still suggested that the most efficient and successful steps to securing a store still lies in proper training and management, both at an in-store level and beyond. Even a store loaded with security cameras can be unsafe in incompetent hands.

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