A local business owner became frustrated with repeated thefts of food from his hotel kitchen. Steak, prawns and other expensive frozen food kept disappearing from the restaurant, frequently by the case. Losses were mounting and TechLab was asked if we could come up with a solution. The business owner wanted evidence he could use in court to prosecute the thief, but didn’t want to cast suspicion on every employee – some that had been working at the facility for several years.
After consulting with the business owner, we raised an additional point that hadn’t been considered: Taking security action that would be seen by everyone could serve to drive the thief underground and was unlikely to bring closure. It was decided that covert surveillance cameras would be installed near the freezers, and a Digital Video Recorder (DVR) would be installed in a hidden security enclosure that only the owner would have access to. Further, the install would occur in the early morning hours when the restaurant was closed and staff were off-shift. We customized a few smoke detectors to appear somewhat aged, blending in with the surroundings of the facility, and incorporated small HD cameras that provided great images, even in low-light situations. The DVR recorded 24/7. During the course of the install a discussion about till shortages came up and it was decided that installing a separate camera to observe the till would be implemented in another visit.
Within 3 days the facility owner called to let us know that he had successfully identified the thief, but was unsure how he wanted to proceed. He decided to re-schedule the employee with several days off in succession, buying the owner with time to sort out his solution. However, two days later the owner noticed that a case of expensive steaks was missing and he returned to the video and determined that someone else – a manager – had come into the facility after-hours and taken the steaks.
A meeting was had with the owner and we suggested that he contact the local police department, asking for a private meeting at a location unrelated to the business to discuss the matter with law enforcement. We suggested that the video be shown to the police, and we facilitated the transfer of video data to DVD for law-enforcement use. It was suggested that a short period of time be given to see if till shortage issues could also be addressed before word of the camera footage was make public knowledge.
After a week without a till shortage and both suspected employees on temporary leave, law enforcement decided to make their move and arrested both employees for theft. The owner conducted a meeting with his remaining employees and explained the steps he had taken, as well as his reasons for taking them. Following the meeting another employee came forward and admitted several thefts from the cash register. That employee resigned her position and law enforcement was notified, but no further action was taken.
The surveillance system is still operational and has required no service or maintenance since install. I’d call that a win.