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If you think criminals are getting away with it, think again! Narrated by Rav Wilding, this series shows how smart technology and specialist tactics are being used to bring offenders to justice.

Nick Fisher and Simon Gordon – tell the true story of Facewatch and how it is deterring crime across the retail sector.

All episodes are now live on BBC Iplayer:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episodes/m000tq65/frontline-fightback

 

 

 

Response to the recent demand for legislation to protect shopworkers by Nick Fisher, CEO, Facewatch Ltd

 

Facewatch’ s mission has always been to provide a service that supports retail business owners and create a better retail experience for the customer in an unobtrusive way. It is, therefore, a sad moment to read reports on the huge increase in anti-social behaviour and violence towards retail staff over the last year. Much of this increase has been caused by a small minority of the public who are frustrated by the need for the in-store safety measures brought about by the Covid 19 pandemic.

Facewatch has, of course, been aware of these challenges and our launch of a new algorithm that is effective in recognising habitual offenders even when wearing a facemask, was one of our immediate priorities and was delivered in November last year. We now see Facewatch’ s role in the retail sector broadened and key to the future of safe retailing.

Facewatch instantly identifies individuals with a track record of crime or anti-social behaviour when entering a store, sending immediate alerts to multiple destinations as determined by the store. These can be to the store manager, security guards, monitoring stations, head office all at the same time in less than 2 seconds, enabling an immediate intervention.

Throughout the pandemic, retailers have needed to control customer volumes in store. In some cases, this has increased costs by using man guarding in addition to all the necessary PPE controls being applied.  The Police have declared they simply do not have the resources to deal with crimes such as store theft and general abuse of retail employees. Consequently, multiple retailers are turning to Facewatch as a proven and effective solution in deterring the undesirable customers from coming to their stores for fear of being recognised, thus preventing all the hassle and stress associated with repeat offenders. In fact, Facewatch customers report a reduction in crime of 25% or more within the first 90 days of deployment with increasing results the longer the system is used.

Signage displayed to customers (and repeat offenders) makes them aware that the system is deployed in the store resulting in both customers and employees reporting feeling safer as a result.  There is no evidence whatsoever that it deters honest customers from shopping at the store.

There are a few minority civil liberty organisation that would have you believe that facial recognition and companies like Facewatch will hold and store your data, track and trace your movement and infringe your liberty! In fact, Facewatch deletes all biometric data of regular customers (non-offenders) immediately and operates above the already strict legislation for biometric technology.

Retail workers have been complete heroes throughout this pandemic and yet over 400 of these heroes are attacked threatened or abused in their workplace every day. That was over 150,000 in 2020 and recent report claim it has increased by 80% in some businesses since the summer. These crimes are highly corrosive to the people working in these challenging circumstances and so the Government must act to criminalise such offence. As a former retail director, who understands completely the challenges placed on modern day retailers I am completely aligned with the 65 retail CEO’s who have written to Boris Johnson to ask for greater protection for shopworkers.

In support of our complete commitment to this, for the duration of the lockdown in England if anti-social behaviour and staff abuse is affecting your business Facewatch will provide one system licence and training free of charge for the first 90 days and if you are not completely satisfied with the results during this period Facewatch will remove the system.

 

Simon Lawrence, owner of Lawrence’s garages, upgraded to the new Facewatch system and over the last 2 months reports that the system’s new periocular algorithm is performing well. He said,

 

Simon Lawrence

Simon Lawrence, Director, of Lawrences’ Garages Ltd

Since Facewatch installed their new face mask system last November we have been impressed with the way it recognises people wearing masks and the new “Facebox” can detect up to 25 faces per second. We have also found that crime has gone down significantly since using Facewatch as word as got out that we are not so easy and there are other softer targets

Facewatch is available at £199 per month to retailers and is proven to reduce crime by at least 25% in the first 90 days of its use and prevents anti-social behaviour.

Nick Fisher talks about the challenges for retailers and how they are managing crime and violence

If you run a business that’s about standing up for individuals privacy rights in a democratic country and rely on creating headline news to encourage people to financially support you, it looks like challenging times ahead. Greater issues such as climate change, famine, racism, crime, immigration, Brexit and of course this awful pandemic will continue to be the headlines for some time to come.

 

However, if this is your strategy and you hope to attract and engage advocates of your position, it would serve you well to accurately reflect the truth and demonstrate at least some understanding of your subjects’ proposition and how it works before potentially playing with people’s lives. That is unless your strategy is to purposefully misrepresent the facts, propagate untruths, create sensationalism, or instill fear.

 

The facts are, Facewatch uses facial recognition to protect employees and business against criminals. Our algorithms are highly accurate, tested frequently by NIST and currently rank as the best in the Western World. Facewatch goes above and beyond GDPR legislation when processing and managing data, implementing self-imposed rules and additional levels of security and transparency beyond legislative requirements. Contrary to incorrect reports, there are no secrets to any Facewatch deployment, clear signage is a mandatory requirement of use. Furthermore, our customers have published testimonials, with all reporting significant reductions in crime, employees feeling safer and no effect whatsoever on footfall.

Retail crime is at an all-time high and verbal and violent assaults on employees is the norm, some reports indicating an 80% increase year on year!  Protecting your most valuable asset, your people is an imperative of all responsible retailers. So, while the challenging retail climate exists, deploying facial recognition could quickly evolve from a nice to have to a necessity in the same way as CCTV did before it. The CO-OP must be commended for their pro-action in adopting the latest and some would argue the safest technology that lawfully protects the welfare of their employees and customers alike.

 

The truth is that there are no privacy concerns from the overwhelming majority of the general public. The interests of the law-abiding individual trumps all or should so in the moral public’s perception. It’s the sensational, alarmist and misrepresentative narrative repeatedly trotted out by civil liberty groups that aim to cause disruption and concern. This fanciful inference that your data will be secretly recorded and stored, that modern-day algorithms are severely inaccurate and innocent people will be flagged and recorded as criminals is complete nonsense, stated without any evidence and simply designed to cause alarm. Using terms to describe facial recognition as deeply chilling and more associated with the Stasi or dictatorships is an insult to responsible businesses who with complete transparency are aiming to protect the welfare and well being of their employees and customers. All this commentary is given without any insight whatsoever as to how private facial recognition (Facewatch) operates. It would do the civil liberty groups some good to get out of their ivory towers and spend some time in the very environments that Facewatch is deployed. Who knows, it may even lead to them demonstrate some understanding and empathy towards retail employees and the daily challenges they face in modern-day Britain, rather than championing the rights of violent offenders and thieves!

A family business with an eye for the future 

Simon Lawrence

Simon Lawrence, Director, Lawrences Garages Ltd

My great grandfather started his first garage serving fuel in 1919 in StockwellSW LondonIt was a big gamble then as the petrol pump had only just been invented but its early success has led to 5 generations of Lawrence’s running forecourt garages. Trying to be the best at what we do, having a friendly team and keeping and eye on the future has ensured that whatever changes and challenges occur we try to be flexible and positive.

This last six months has really tested us. It’s good to know we are part of the community. We also know that this pandemic has made it easier for thieves to steal from our stores. We were fortunate that in 2019 we made the decision to install another new technology, in the footsteps of our great grandfatherusing facial recognition to help us recognise habitual thieves and troublemakers that frequent our store in Southampton. 

We know Facewatch has reduced losses, and empowered our front-line team, they have great pride in what they do and want their store to be safe for themselves and customers. Re-running CCTV to find a thief and adding them to the watch list is done with satisfaction I do, however, view the future both with trepidation and excitement. What will be the future for fuel stations? Electric, hydrogen, we are looking at them all and what value we add.  Will Lawrences offer home delivery and will those new customers we have met recently keep coming for not just flour but all their every day shopping? 

We have also found that crime has gone down significantly since using Facewatch as word has got out that we are not so easy and there are other softer targets”

Protecting our customers and colleagues

Comment from Gareth Lewis, Loss prevention officer at the Southern Co-op

The current pandemic and a rise in retail crime are both presenting constant challenges for those of us in the convenience sector. At Southern Co-op, we are regularly adapting to the needs of our customers and colleagues to ensure they are as safe as they can be during the pandemic.

We also need to ensure that our stores function efficiently whilst still delivering high levels of customer service. One way to achieve this is through improved technology which we have been rolling out in a number of ways such as self-service checkouts, Amazon lockers and digital security solutions. Our approach is to find solutions that work for everyone.

In my role as the loss prevention and security manager, I have found that facial recognition is one such technology that has helped reduce theft in the stores where it is deployed.

We have completed a successful trial using Facewatch FR in a select number of stores where there is a higher level of crime.  All of our customers have been made aware with distinctive signage and we have introduced a system which does not store images of our customers unless they have been identified in relation to a crime. This ensures it is GDPR compliant whilst also allowing us to gather evidence against more prolific thieves in our stores before entering in discussions with the local police.

The system alerts our store teams immediately when someone enters their store who has a past record of theft or anti-social behaviour. It gives our teams time to decide on the best action which is incredibly important. Our teams have been trained to use the App and watch list software.

Of course, facial recognition is just one tool in a range of other tactics we are using to deter crime and prevent abuse. Southern Co-op’s Protecting Our People programme looks at crime from every angle – causes, prevention, reporting and justice. This includes £100,000 worth of grants to local organisations working to make our neighbourhoods safer. None of our colleagues should have to face threats of violence and we hope our work will help reduce future crime in our stores.

Co-op Copner Portsmouth
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BRC unveils Shopworkers’ Protection Pledge to protect retail workers against crime

Over 400 incidents of violence and abuse against shopworkers occur every day

11 cross-party MPs put their name to the pledge for the launch


The BRC has launched the Shopworkers’ Protection Pledge in an effort to support the legislation necessary to protect retail workers against crime and violence.

On Wednesday, a total of 11 cross-party MPs put their name to the pledge for the launch and the BRC is calling on MPs from all parties to add their name to this cause.

The signatories pledge aims to improve legislation after the BRC Crime Survey found that over 400 incidents of violence and abuse against shopworkers occur every day.

http://brc.org.uk/news/corporate-affairs/shopworkers-protection-pledge/ 

THE PLEDGE

Over 400 retail workers face violence and abuse in the workplace every single day. The British Retail Consortium Crime Survey shows an increasing problem of abuse, threats and violence facing the millions of people who work in our shops, serving our local communities. These incidents are often the result of challenging shoplifters, enforcing age restricted sales and recently, implementing coronavirus safety measures.

These victims of abuse carry their experiences with them for a lifetime. It affects them, their colleagues, and the families they go home to. Retail workers don’t just serve the community, they are the community and have been ‘Hidden Heroes’ during the coronavirus pandemic, working tirelessly to keep the nation fed and supplied with the items we have all needed.

As elected Members of Parliament, we have a duty to protect retail workers, ensuring that those who needlessly assault shop staff face the full force of the law. No one should have to face violence or threats in their workplace.

I pledge to champion shopworkers in my constituency and:

  • Recognise the serious impact that violence and abuse has on shopworkers and the local communities they serve.
  • Stand with retail workers to support legislation to better protect them.

Send email here: chantelle.devilliers@brc.org.uk <chantelle.devilliers@brc.org.uk>; to sign the pleadge

During July we asked a selection of Facewatch customers a series of questions about their experience with Facewatch.

The feedback showed that all those asked found that Facewatch had reduced shop theft but also helped in reducing anti-social behaviour whilst giving the front of house teams more confidence especially when working after dark and with reduced numbers.

The UK economy has now entered a recession due to the pandemic and as has been found historically crime and anti-social behaviour has been shown to increase during these periods. We also have the additional challenges of preventing a second wave of Covid 19 and there is more focus on reducing contact in all situations. This new ‘contactless normal’ has shown that facial recognition is a very powerful tool in helping reduce all types of contact.

CustomerfeedbackJuly2020fv1

In a wide-ranging discussion, Nick and Gavin talk about the major escalation of problems on the high street brought about by the pandemic. This is a must-watch for CCTV installers and retailers who need a solution to reduce their losses and help shopworker moral

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