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The pace of Facewatch installations continues to increase with two new installations in Wolverhampton and Leeds this week (week 24 2021)

New system upgrades also continue across our network in London and Luton.

 

With the recent BRC (British Retail Consortium) crime survey reporting an increase in theft and violence many retailers are facing huge challenges to support their front line workers and protect their stock. With a further increase in theft in the wholesale market to compound the issues technology is increasingly seen as a low cost and positive way forward.

Facewatch have recently commissioned a YouGOV survey across the UK and public opinion towards the use of CCTV based AFR systems shows that over 74.9% of the public are in agreement or are neutral about the use of AFR in everyday life to prevent and solve crime.

If you are a retail owner who is worried about theft and anti-social behaviour in your store but have questions about the reaction by your customers to the use of these new technologies then Nick Fisher, CEO, Facewatch is available to discuss the challenges, show you the system in use and for you to meet other retailers who are currently using the Facewatch system.

Our Data Protection Officer, Dave Sumner is also available to overview the detail of how Facewatch manages data under the GDPR data protection law. https://www.facewatch.co.uk/privacy/facewatch-and-gdpr/

 

Nick Fisher, CEO, Facewatch, responds to the latest BRC crime report

https://brc.org.uk/news/corporate-affairs/retail-crime-continues-to-climb/

The recent BRC (British Retail Consortium) 2021 crime report gives us all a chilling reminder of how even during a pandemic retail crime and violence continues to blight an industry that employs over 3million people- 10% of the UK working population.

The headline facts show a marked increase in theft and violence and how difficult it is to convict those committing offences.

  • 7% rise in incidents of violence and abuse against shopworkers, now at 455 each day
  • Only 6% of incidents of violence and abuse result in prosecution
  • Whopping £2.5 billion cost of crime to retailers, including £935m in customer theft

Technology is providing a range of innovative solutions to ensure the retail experience is safe and pleasurable, however, some of these new solutions make it easier for theft and sometimes mean a less interactive experience for shoppers especially those who are older and less able to cope with new technology. These challenges will continue, and new innovations are sure to arrive that answer these needs. Crime and violence however seem to be an epidemic driven by social issues that vary greatly across the UK. One thing this report highlights is that overall, there is a steady increase in theft and violence, specifically in the retail sector.

Facewatch App

How are we helping at Facewatch?

As a business our vision is to create safer, crime fee retailing, and our mission is to develop the very latest technology to be used by retailers to create a deterrent to both theft and violence. Our newest, fastest, and easiest to use version of Facewatch is being deployed by all types of retailers nationwide to great effect.

We understand it is not easy for a retailer to broadcast they are using a sophisticated technology such as facial recognition, but our customer collectively agree that Facewatch is it an imperative tool to have in your armoury if you are serious about providing a safe environment for your employees and customers. For those using the Facewatch system, customer facing employees report feeling safer and the accountants report less shrinkage. It’s a win-win solution and if our users had any negative feedback from their everyday loyal customers, we would be the first to know. Just for the record, this has never happened! Facewatch provides store signage to ensure the service is transparent to all customer and operates beyond the standard required by GDPR and is evidenced to reduce crime in your store by at least 25% in the first 90 days.

 

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.

Meat, nappies, razor blades and deodorant top the list of Britain’s most shoplifted items, reveals the company behind a facial recognition camera system used to spot criminals

  • Meat, nappies, razor blades and deodorant are Britain’s most shoplifted items
  • Facewatch operates in some Southern Co-op stores, Budgens, garden centres  
  • System sends alert to staff when someone on watchlist walks through the door

Meat, nappies, razor blades and deodorant are Britain’s most shoplifted items, a company behind a controversial facial recognition camera system to spot criminals has revealed.

Facewatch operates in some Southern Co-op stores, Budgens, garden centres and petrol stations and plans to expand, despite criticisms from privacy campaigners. Facewatch insists the technology is legal and meets the standards of privacy watchdog the Information Commissioner’s Office.

Facewatch’s chief executive, Nick Fisher, said the company has created a ‘watchlist’ of individuals who have a history of theft, violence or threats of violence against shop staff based on CCTV images, names and descriptions provided by retailers signed up to the service.

The system sends an alert to store staff when someone on the watchlist walks through the door and is seen on CCTV (file image)

The system sends an alert to store staff when someone on the watchlist walks through the door and is seen on CCTV (file image)

Mr Fisher said the most commonly stolen items are packed meat, nappies, baby food, razor blades, whisky, cosmetics, cheese, deodorants and small electrical goods.

The system sends an alert to store staff when someone on the watchlist walks through the door and is seen on CCTV. The director of civil rights group Big Brother Watch, Silkie Carlo, said: ‘This surveillance is well-known to suffer from severe inaccuracy and biases, leading to innocent people being wrongly flagged.’

Meat, (file image) nappies, razor blades and deodorant are Britain¿s most shoplifted items, a company behind a controversial facial recognition camera system to spot criminals has revealed

Meat, (file image) nappies, razor blades and deodorant are Britain’s most shoplifted items, a company behind a controversial facial recognition camera system to spot criminals has revealed

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9128315/Meat-nappies-razor-blades-deodorant-list-Britains-shoplifted-items.html

 

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!

Facewatch support the BSIA as a full member and are working with the team to publish a guide for the industry on the use of AFR and the need for an understanding of the data laws that currently exist in the UK and Europe. In a recent round table discussion many of the opportunities and challenges for the technology were aired. Nick Fisher was one of the key speakers.

 

Watch the broadcast here:

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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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