King County Facility in Washington State was faced with a predicament when the county's sheriff department had to find a better way to handle the process of impounding vehicles.

King County Facility, a government operation designed to provide support services to other government departments within the King County district of Washington State, is challenged every day to develop better methods to service various facilities, while at the same time not overwhelming the taxpayers' wallet. Ken Thomasson, lead security advisor for King County Facility, was faced with this very predicament when the county's sheriff department had to find a better way to handle the process of impounding vehicles.

The problem the county faced was multi-facetted. First, the sheriffs did not have their own facility to house the impounded vehicles, and instead had to store them at local towing yards. Unfortunately the county was being billed for the storage, which cost on average $60,000 to $80,000 of taxpayers' money every month. Secondly, the only proposed storage area was 75 miles away from Thomasson's desk. In order for King County Sheriffs to use this area, Thomasson would have to find a way to monitor the site from the Emergency Dispatch Center.

Finding the Perfect System

Thomasson, having more than forty years of experience in the security industry, figured that if he could find a way to monitor the proposed facility from 75 miles away, he would solve both dilemmas simultaneously. So, Thomasson began searching for a remote monitoring security system that would fit the needs of this particular situation. He needed a system that was affordable so as not to overspend taxpayers' money. He also needed a security system that offered digital monitoring so he would have instant access and retrieval to any event that occurred at the storage facility.

After narrowing down his options to two different remote monitoring systems, Thomasson decided to test them to see which of the two would better fit the needs of the proposed sheriff's vehicle impound storage facility. One of the systems he tried was Alpha Systems Lab's RemoteWatch Pro digital video management system. Located in Irvine, Calif., Alpha Systems Lab is a security solution based manufacturer that provides advanced digital video monitoring systems.

"I played with the system in an attempt to break it. When I saw that it wouldn't break, I figured that would be the system I would chose," commented Thomasson, "I liked the versatility ASL products provided, and the fact that the county only had to buy the products it would need for the project. I just looked at a parts list and picked what we needed; we didn't have to purchase a packaged security program. As for quality, ASL is leaps and bounds beyond its competitors."

Remote Surveillance

After testing ASL's RemoteWatch Pro digital video management system, Thomasson decided that this was the system for the proposed sheriff's vehicle impound storage facility. With ASL's products he could monitor the future site from the emergency dispatch center (75 miles away), have all the surveillance footage in a digital format, rather than VHS, and at the same time save the taxpayers' dollars from useless spending with the local tow yards. To properly monitor the security of the facility, Thomasson purchased eight DigiCorder surveillance cameras, one RemoteWatch Pro with the receiving software, and one Multiplexer for alarm capabilities.

After clearing the site for the storage facility, and completing the installation of the security system, the total cost was a mere $50,000; less than one month's bill under the old system of using the local tow yards. In place for over three months now, the security solution designed by Thomasson using the advanced technology available through Alpha Systems Lab, the sheriff's vehicle impound storage facility has saved King County taxpayers over $180,000 in taxes. Over the course of one year, the storage facility is estimated to save over $500,000 of taxpayers' money.

Future Plans

With the overwhelming success of the sheriff's vehicle impound storage facility project, future plans for a new sheriff's evidence building are in place. The project will include Alpha Systems Lab newest product, RemoteWatch Millennium 4.0. Similar to the RemoteWatch Pro, the Millennium 4.0 product will allow Thomasson to make program changes to the security system from the emergency dispatch center, rather than having to visit the evidence building itself. This enhanced ability eliminates drive time to and from the facility, resulting in more efficient, and quicker response times at the emergency dispatch center.

Theft of shopping carts, mostly at food and discount retail outlets, is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to retail theft. As compared to shopping cart theft, which is mostly by customers or visitors to the property, retail theft more generally is seeing a mighty shift from shoplifters to employees.

The Latest Results

According to the latest retail theft survey conducted by Jack L. Hayes International of Fruitland Park, Fla., there were 577,186 retail apprehensions in 2000, with 73,326 apprehensions of dishonest employees. The survey explored incidents at 30 of the largest retail companies representing 10,663 stores.

While there may be more shoplifting incidents, employee thieves steal more. The Hayes study suggests that dishonest employees steal about 6.7 times more than shoplifters. That's $765.41 per incident compared to a shoplifting incident of $114.07.

The shopping cart anti-theft system points to another aspect of emerging retail security: electronic systems that are keyed to specific problems instead of a general Band-Aid approach. In this strategy, security directors can match a solution to a unique location problem.