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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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In this short video, we preview and test the new Facewatch facemask algorithm. This new upgrade shows a very high level of accuracy and is a great addition to the product especially as the use of facemask and other face coverings is increasing during the gradual return to high street trading

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It’s a perfect time for our customers and Accredited Installers to watch all the latest news face-to-face on Facewatch TV.

The first series of video updates are delivered by our technical guru and all round Facewatch expert, George Gordon.

Broadcasting from his home George will bring you weekly tech tips and information about installing, running and getting the best from your installation.

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Facemasks are everywhere, serving as one of the frontlines in the fight against the Covid19 global pandemic.

Identification solutions are needed that can be rapidly deployed to support the challenge of offering recognition systems in the presence of facial masks. Facewatch is delivering perhaps the most powerful solution there can be; a next-generation periocular recognition algorithm that detects and recognizes faces based only on the eye region between cheekbones and eyebrows.

The Facewatch Periocular algorithm leverages artificial intelligence and machine learning technology to perform person detection and identification using solely the eye and eyebrow regions of the face. The Facewatch algorithm can operate with any camera, delivers the same best-in-class hardware and software efficiency that has become synonymous with Facewatch, and achieves exceptional accuracy.

Other face recognition vendors are claiming that masks do not impede their algorithm. And, while modern face recognition algorithms are incredibly resilient in the presence of masks, medical masks occlude 50% of the face, are not properly validated in the NIST FRVT benchmarks, and are inconsistent with previous algorithm design requirements. By solely using the eyes and eyebrow regions, a periocular recognition algorithm leverages all the best properties of a face recognition algorithm (accurate, easy-to-use, sensor agnostic, fast) while delivering a solution that is specifically designed to not be influenced by medical masks.

Facewatch is including the periocular algorithm to all existing license holders under active maintenance, and the algorithm will be a standard feature, included for no additional cost. Facewatch will soon release a mask detection algorithm, which leverages the periocular face recognition pipeline to enable rapid awareness of whether a person is wearing a mask or not.

This periocular recognition algorithm powered by the modern technological breakthroughs in deep learning and convolutional neural networks will enable subjects of interest to be recognised automatically whilst enabling others to anonymously receive access to retailers using Facewatch. It will further support persons adhering to religious customs such as niqabs to be provided an equal user experience when engaging with identification technology.

 

Facewatch overview

Facewatch system provides a, GDPR compliant, crime deterrent solution that is easy to install, can be used and managed by small stores and is scalable for use by large retail groups due to its unique cloud-based servers and using Intel® NUC mini PCs. Data is managed securely by Facewatch. Facewatch doesn’t store information about the general public, just those for whom their retailer subscribers have uploaded confirmed evidence of criminal activity. If a facial image is not matched to a relevant watch list the algorithmic data is instantly deleted.

Facewatch block diagram

Figure 1. Facewatch matches faces against known offenders within seconds of them entering a business

Facewatch uses the software-as-a-service technology model, making advanced facial recognition affordable for even small businesses. The company’s watchlist of Subjects of Interest (SOI’s) is stored securely in the cloud. It’s a centralised, managed database of biometric data corresponding to the faces of people who are reasonably suspected of having shoplifted or committed other crimes at businesses that subscribe to the service (Figure 1).

The hardware to run Facewatch is simple to deploy. It uses a standard HD CCTV camera and Intel® NUC, a mini-PC that is only 4×4 inches in size. Its performance enables it to play and record video at 4K Ultra HD clarity, making it ideal for a facial recognition system. The cameras, placed at store entrances, send an image to an on-site NUC loaded with software that converts the image to an algorithm. The algorithm is compared to those in the Facewatch relevant watchlist for that property and if there is a match an alert, along with an accuracy reading, is sent to the retailer’s smartphone or other device, warning it that a known criminal on the watchlist has entered its business.

By  18 March 2020  Retail Week 

As the government takes increasingly stringent action to combat the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, retail staff have found themselves on the front line in the face of panic buying and contagion fears.

  • Labour MP Alex Norris calls on government to pass legislation protecting shopworkers from violence, abuse and assault
  • Morrisons CEO David Potts introduces numerous measures to protect staff, including statutory sick pay
  • Several retailers have called on consumers to treat colleagues with respect in the face of growing concerns around stockpiling

The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK is rising daily. The government by its own admission has begun imposing “draconian” measures and many consumers have ignored pleas to the contrary and cleared shelves of some products in a stockpiling frenzy.

While panic buying has mostly taken place in supermarkets and grocery convenience stores, instances of consumers hoarding hand sanitiser, soap and over-the-counter medicines have also hit health and beauty retailers.

Social media, Twitter in particular, has started to fill up over the last few days with stories of frontline retail staff working longer hours and coming face to face with fraught and sometimes abusive members of the public, all the while trying to do their best to keep shelves stocked and consumers happy.

On Monday, Labour MP Alex Norris stood up in Parliament and put forward legislation to protect shopworkers from rising levels of violence, abuse and assault.

Norris said the shopworkers were “on the front line” of abuse and crime, and those worries were likely to be exacerbated amid the growing panic about coronavirus, given the “significance retail workers have in our lives, particularly during this period”.

“With the current coronavirus crisis we would argue that retail staff are essential workers”

Paddy Lillis, Usdaw

Shopworkers’ union Usdaw has backed the call and said “retail staff are essential to our communities, particularly during the coronavirus crisis”.

Usdaw general secretary Paddy Lillis says: “We have always made the case that retail staff are at the heart of our communities, but with the current coronavirus crisis we would argue that they are essential workers.

“Usdaw members across the retail supply chain and in stores are working hard to keep shelves filled and serve customers. We understand this is a stressful time and remind customers that shopworkers deserve respect and that no level of abuse is ever acceptable. It should never be a part of the job.”

The BRC says it is working with police and partners to “keep retail sites running as smoothly as possible” and that “when circumstances are difficult, retailers are well-versed in providing effective security measures”.

In a statement issued to all Morrisons’ stakeholders yesterday, chief executive David Potts agreed and called on consumers to “treat our colleagues on the front line with the greatest respect”.

David Potts

Morrisons boss David Potts asked customers to ‘treat our colleagues on the front line with the greatest respect’

Potts also called on customers to “please consider others even more so everyone can buy what they need, especially those who are most vulnerable in our society”.

A spokesman from another national grocer said there had been a handful of incidents across its estate, but there had not needed to take on extra security guards.

While some retail staff have faced abuse from consumers, others are also struggling with worries about getting the disease themselves – either from customers or from colleagues.

It is becoming a growing concern for businesses that frontline staff, as well as those working in key supply chain roles such as warehouse workers and delivery drivers, will fall sick or be forced to self-isolate as the virus continues to spread.

Earlier this week, in a call between representatives of Defra, supermarket chains and the wider food industry, the possibility of taking thousands of hospitality workers on secondment to work in food supply chains was raised, according to BuzzFeed news. While this could even increase the risk of spreading the virus, it will at least safeguard vital jobs and supply lines in the sector.

‘Amazing group of people’

Protecting staff from spreading the disease is becoming a top priority. The managing director of one high street food and beverage operator told Retail Week his staff are deep cleaning premises three times a day. Under normal circumstances, they would be deep cleaned twice in a month.

A spokeswoman from the Co-op says it has taken “immediate steps” to safeguard staff including building in “additional working hours for store colleagues to undertake more frequent handwashing throughout the day”.

Morrisons and Boots are among those to have implemented measures designed to enhance hygiene and staff safety.

A Boots spokeswoman says it has been “making sure that our stores, pharmacies, opticians and hearing care facilities are all clean and hygienic”. She also says teams in-store “have access to handwashing facilities and sanitiser”.

Boots bag

Boots has ensured staff have access to handwashing facilities and sanitiser

Morrisons yesterday announced a slew of measures designed to protect staff. In order to reduce the handling of cash by shopworkers, the grocer has asked customers to pay by card or smartphone “where possible”.

The grocer has “been issuing hand sanitiser” to all checkout workers in-store, significantly increased cleaning on surfaces that consumers and staff touch and redeployed staff “who are vulnerable to the virus”.

The retailer has also taken measures to protect staff who either fall ill from the virus or are forced to self-isolate and therefore can’t work by creating a ‘colleague hardship fund’. This will ensure all staff affected by the virus receive sick pay “whether or not they would normally be eligible”.

As the retail sector waits to see what measures will be bought in by the government next, many in the industry are rallying around frontline workers in these uncertain times.

Timpson chief executive James Timpson today described employees as “an amazing group of people who I’m going to need to lean on heavily over the coming weeks and months to keep the show on the road”. Other retail leaders will heartily agree and be doing their best on behalf of their people.