Somerfield Stores Limited has acquired 118 petrol forecourts from Texaco. The petrol stations continue to sell Texaco branded fuels, but the sites are managed by Somerfield and the associated retail unit is branded Somerfield. As part of the rebranding and redevelopment there have been changes to the layout and logistics of the sites. Jon Clark, Business Control Manager for Somerfield, previously managed the sites for Texaco and is responsible for safety and security.
The site at St Katherine’s Dock in the City, London was built in 1992. Following the acquisition by Somerfield it was decided to refit the shop to provide a bigger and better offering in line with other Somerfield stores. The shop refit was completed in December 2007. The new layout of the retail unit does not allow the cashiers to see the fuel pumps. This is a major concern as the cashiers have to authorise the pump start-up. However, before doing so, it is a legal requirement that they check that no illegal containers are being used by customers or that the customer is not under age. The Petroleum Officer for the local London Authority had already advised on specific requirements for the site and a threat of closure if they were not implemented. In addition, losses from drive-offs had increased from £100/month to £1000/month.
Jon Clark immediately identified the issues and took the opportunity to upgrade the security solution both to meet the Petroleum Officer’s requirements and to improve the system with the addition of the technology.
has worked with John Clark at Texaco since 2003 and he contacted them to provide a specification for the upgraded system including ANPR. Over the last 5 years, AGE has consistently specified Honeywell security systems for forecourts as the solutions continually evolve to meet changing needs. At the St Katherine’s Dock site, a 32 channel was specified handling input from not only the cameras, one situated on each of the 12 pumps, but also from the ANPR cameras capturing number plate information using the latest software from Honeywell. The Fusion DVR is equipped with 1.7 terabytes of hard drive capacity in order to store 30 days recording. The site operates 24/7.
As the initial refit was completed in 2007, in April 2008, AGE carried out a retrofit of the security system. Working to UK Petroleum Industry Association standards for work on forecourts, AGE installed the cabling for the new cameras on the busy forecourt. Within the retail unit the recording and control systems were installed in the back office with a Honeywell 19 inch monitor positioned over each of the three cash tills and a larger monitor for reference within view.
After a survey of the site to judge the speed and angle of vehicles entering, the ANPR cameras were positioned at key entry points to capture details of vehicles arriving. All possible weak spots on the site were fully reviewed and included in the camera coverage plan. For example, some vehicles will enter via the exit, either accidentally or on purpose, and therefore this area has to be covered as well as the entrance. The number plate details are stored for future reference. A database is created of vehicles that have visited the site and cross-referenced to known suspects whether for drive-offs or shoplifting. The number plates for drive-off offenders are also distributed to other Somerfield sites in the area.
The St Katherine’s Dock site has about 30 staff. AGE carried out comprehensive training in short, two-hour sessions with all staff, in small groups, to ensure efficient use of the system.
Since the installation of the Honeywell video and ANPR systems, drive-off losses have reduced significantly from £1000 each month to £300 per month. More importantly, the system is now fully approved by the Petroleum Officer. The manager and staff of the site can easily monitor activity at the pumps via automatically triggered full screen views at the till points. When authorisation is not required the screen displays a multiple screen view from the cameras on site.
The car registration alerts, via the ANPR system, are used to deny authorisation at the pumps to known drive-off offenders. One couple are known to have visited 17 sites across the UK, filled up their petrol tank and then claimed no means of payment, acquiring £1500 worth of fuel. With the registration number in the system, Somerfield sites expect to avoid falling victim to this couple.
However the team at the St Katherine’s Dock Somerfield site also use the ANPR database to enhance customer service – for example they can create an alert so that when regular visitors who are disabled drivers, or those needing assistance, arrive at the forecourt for petrol or shopping appropriate help can be provided proactively.
Car registration details of known shoplifters are also added to the database and if a suspect enters the shop the staff can be alerted. At another Somerfield site where the Honeywell ANPR solution is installed, a local gang is known to go to a particular display in the shop and steal specific items. In cases like this the alert can direct a member of staff to go and stand by the targeted area to prevent losses.
Other cameras are installed inside the retail unit at high value areas like alcohol and tobacco and also the car wash which are also linked to the Fusion DVR. Images are recorded and can be used as evidence if required.
Where a drive-off is accidental, the recorded event can be used to encourage recovery of the debt when the driver next visits the site. A PA system enables the staff to respond to people at the pumps.