Some of the latest innovations in video surveillance are helping security integrator ComSurv of Charleston, S.C., help Goodwill Industries of Lower South Carolina deter crime at its 21 donation centers so it could proceed undeterred in its mission to help those in need. The problems were occurring at drive-up lanes where small donations are collected in bins and larger items left on the side of the facilities. After-hours theft had grown to approximately 30 percent of donations, costing thousands of dollars per year. Rising criminal activity led to safety concerns and lowered morale among the 1,700-member district workforce.
“We had an analog video surveillance solution in place, but the cameras were very limited in their capabilities and effectiveness,” says Brad Kyzer, loss prevention specialist, Goodwill Industries of Lower South Carolina. “The system was limited because there was not any p/t/z capability and it was not very effective in getting clear detail. Also the cameras had been exposed to outside weather that took a toll on them because parts and housings had become rusty and deteriorated.”
Established in 2004 and with additional offices in Miami, Fla., and Charlotte, N.C., ComSurv (an amalgam of Communication and Surveillance) was initially contacted by Goodwill in January 2010 and began working on the project in May. “We met with the loss prevention staff about a dozen times,” says ComSurv CEO Jose Noy. “We listened closely to their needs and wants. At the end of our many meetings, we felt we had the perfect solution for them. We designed the system, placement and integration. After the first store, there was no doubt in Goodwill’s mind that they made the right choice.”
At each location, ComSurv installed a single Mobotix M24 Allround outdoor camera about 14 feet from the ground and 10 feet from the start of the donations awning. The camera comes with a fixed 43mm lens that captures the entire donation drop-off area. A 16GB MicroSD card inside each camera records the images and plays them back offsite through Mobotix’s MxControlCenter video management software. The cameras also feature two-way audio support and were programmed to announce a recorded voice message when motion is detected that lets people know they are under video surveillance while also thanking them for their donations.
“We used the decentralized Mobotix system in order for them to be able to capture necessary quality video without the need for an entire overhaul of the system. At the end of the day, they can keep their analog system and also able to capture license plates of vehicle stopping on every donation area,” says Noy. “Mobotix allowed them to not have to purchase additional NVR units. Also, with the 3-megapixel images, they are able to view the entire drop-off area and still capture 100 percent of the vehicle license plates that come in front of the camera’s lens.”
The biggest challenge of each of the $2,100 deployments, according to Noy, was contending with light and shadow issues created by the sun. The solution, he says, was “hours of observation and programming for optimal video capturing.” Once in place, the systems worked wonders in accomplishing the intended mission of theft deterrence and assisting in the apprehension of perpetrators. A month after the first cameras were installed there were two theft attempts in which clear footage was provided to local authorities that led to the immediate arrest of four individuals. Plus, police were able to recoup more than $1,100 in donations.
“The system has met and exceeded all our initial needs that we wanted in this particular camera system,” says Kyzer. “We are very satisfied with the Mobotix system and the relationship we have built with ComSurv. Goodwill Industries of Lower South Carolina plans several new stores to open in 2011. We are going to partner with ComSurv to install and help design the best solution for each location.”
View our photo gallery of the Goodwill project here.