Every day, random strangers do “good will” at Goodwill Industries of Acadiana, Inc. in Lafayette, La. They drop off unused clothing and other goods that help support programs in their community, such as job training and assessment, supported employment, elderly housing and housing for the disabled.

Yet, at night, when several of the Goodwill Industries retail stores close, “good will” seems to fade. People still drop off donations in outdoor drop boxes when the retail stores close, and thefts sometimes occur, says Jim Cicala, Director of Risk Management – Safety & Security for Goodwill Industries of Acadiana, Inc.  The good news? The thefts were recorded on video surveillance. The bad news? Reviewing the video footage often was done too late to make an arrest.

“Our procedure was to review video footage in the daytime hours and then file police reports, which did have some merit, but it wasn’t completely meeting our needs,” Cicala explains. He implemented a video remote guarding service from Acadian Monitoring Services in early 2010 at four retail stores and saw the number of thefts fall by 42 percent.

“That’s indicative of the small area where we live,” Cicala says, “where word of mouth is important. We’re not the easy target that we used to be. Our apprehension rate is now at 71%, and before that it was as low as 22%, so that has been a dynamic change.”

The system has also helped him to reduce any allegations of bad apprehensions. The cameras are located to give Acadian monitors a view of either direction around each donation drop box. And the monitors are trained to call the police only after certain protocols are met. “The monitors know the needs of our police departments,” Cicala says. “That took some time, but now the relationship is there.”

The procedure is that when someone enters the monitoring area, the monitor pulls up the video and patiently watches. “Some people don’t steal, some people just rummage, so the monitor makes a key decision on whether or not to initiate a police action,” Cicala says. “In the court arena, it’s harder to prove intent, so once the monitor has a confirmed theft they dispatch and continue to monitor. Their next priority is to identify the suspect and get an ID on the license plate,” he says.

The system is also helping Cicala to be proactive. “There are other activities that the monitors have been able to record that are good from a risk management aspect. For example, one of the stores had a problem with skateboarders on our property. That’s not something where we want to initiate a police action, but it gave me the opportunity to speak with the kids and ask them to skateboard somewhere else.”

Virtual Guard services such as the one used by Goodwill Industries are catching on in use. They offer a business an attractive alternative to a traditional guard service. They work around the clock; they are efficient; they offer eyes that are everywhere; and they can provide eyewitness testimony through recorded videos, whereas a live guard can only rely on memory. They can also take away the threat of injury or loss of life. They are not for everyone, and their offerings do not mean that traditional security guard forces are  outdated or antiquated (please see related information within this article); yet they can offer safety, efficiency and cost savings.

“It has been a cost savings for us,” says Bill Ogg, Director of Facilities for the Western Division of the American Red Cross. Ogg is in charge of the facilities where blood is donated, manufactured and stored.

“Most of our sites are donor centers that are between 3,000 to 8,000 square feet that do not merit having a traditional security guard,” he says. “So the virtual security services from Virsec has an edge. It’s not just after the fact, it’s someone that is actively watching the facilities and seeing things first hand. It’s also used for preventative purposes,” he says. “The handling or processing of the blood needs to remain in a safe environment.”