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Storenet - Retail Security from Dawn to Dusk

Storenet - Retail Security from Dawn to Dusk

Radio and security go hand in hand providing a high level of safety to a variety of users from the construction industry to the public services throughout the UK. One of the fastest growth areas of radio and radio security systems are retailers, high streets stores and shopping centres who need radios to assist in management, maintenance and surveillance. Radios have proved invaluable in this area allowing a quick method of alerting retailers and services in the scheme to the activities of would be shoplifters. Improved communications through the use of the radio system promotes co-operation among shop-owners and their staff and schemes.

Cardiff based M-R-S Communications has become a leading supplier in the field of retail radio security systems. The company operates a scheme called Storenet, which is installed in over 150 locations throughout the United Kingdom. In essence Storenet is a Two way radio system often linked to CCTV control, Police & Town centre managers that allows retailers to exchange valuable security information. Other organisations and services, with an interest in local security, are often linked into the system, enhancing its effectiveness still further. This fully integrated system facilitates the fast flow of information regarding criminal activity (actual or suspected) to be circulated to all relevant parties. The presence of known undesirables can be monitored and passed on.

Since its launch, this crime-busting scheme has had remarkable success in high streets and shopping centres throughout the UK. Terry Fowler Commercial Director of M-R-S, attributes success to the total support and backup that they build into the schemes. By providing a complete turnkey solution; system installation, user training, radio licensing, retailer canvassing, invoicing and equipment maintenance they have developed a loyal and very satisfied list of customers, as well as becoming recognised as a leading supplier in this field.

Terry explained why Icom’s IC-F4GS radio was chosen for Storenet. ‘In the retail environment, you need something rugged, yet visible enough to work as a deterrent. With many shops, clubs and restaurants now offering extended opening hours, it was also important to locate a radio with at least 12 hours of battery life. The IC-F4GS answers these needs. Simplicity in use is also very important and the Icom features a red emergency button which, when activated, sends the identity of the retailer to all other radios in the system, alerting them to a situation. We developed the ‘live microphone’ as a unique feature, which automatically activates the microphone for 30 seconds, allowing hands-free communication. The facility provides extra peace of mind for the retailer.

Such has been the success of the Storenet scheme that it has been introduced and used in many new locations and product extensions have been created. Bluewater Shopping Centre is just one of the latest customers to have taken to the Storenet scheme. Bluewater is the largest centre of its type in the UK, measuring 154,000 sq. metres (1.6m sq. ft.) attracting around 27 million visitors a year. Bluewater is unlike any other shopping centre with approximately 330 shops on two levels, and three “leisure villages” incorporating restaurants, cafes and a multiplex cinema.

Terry Fowler, Commercial Director of M-R-S said,' Bluewater were more than impressed by the features of the Storenet radio. Bluewater were also looking for the management of radio link including the training and service requirements. They wanted us to take responsibility for the day to day running of the scheme and leave them to do the job that they do so professionally. They have been exceptionally pleased with the scheme and it has operated successfully. Since taking over we have increased the number of radios on the scheme. At present M-R-S supply the majority of larger stores and we anticipate more retailers joining the scheme over time.’ He further added, 'we are overjoyed at supplying a comprehensive solution for the largest shopping centre in the UK. Their management team has been tremendous and has helped us tailor the right solution for them.'

In addition to the Storenet scheme, M-R-S has supplied security and maintenance staff with 80 Icom IC-F22 UHF handportable radios. In addition, the company has supplied an IC-F410 UHF base radio unit stationed in the centre’s security office to act as a control point for all the support staff. This means that M-R-S Communications now provide comprehensive radio coverage throughout the centre.

Of course it is not only during the day that security is needed in public areas. One of the natural progressions of Storenet is Nitenet. Nitenet, a Police/Town Centre initiative that links Police, clubs, restaurants and bars via radio so that officers and managers can be alerted quickly and effectively of any problems ranging from troublemakers to drug related incidents. This enables staff to be proactive and offences can be prevented or if needed offenders brought to book speedily and efficiently.

Terry Fowler said, 'We believe that Nitenet is the most comprehensive radio surveillance package available in the UK today. After the run away success of Storenet, it became apparent that making our streets a safer place during the day was only half the battle. Now, with Nitenet, we can make our towns and cities a safer place to enjoy from sunset to sunrise.'

Nitenet is a two-way radio system that creates an all informed network linking all participants in a town centre to each other, the police and a CCTV unit. This enables the rapid communication of information, between all users, regarding trouble makers and criminal activity, throughout the area. As with Storenet, the radios have a built-in panic button which, when activated, sends the identity of the staff member in difficulty to all other radios on the system. Again the microphone is automatically activated for 30 seconds, thus enabling the user to have a 'hands-free' facility.

One of the first schemes to trial Nitenet was in Maidstone, Kent's County Town. The scheme immediately provided improved night-time surveillance for pubs, clubs and restaurants throughout Maidstone. There, the system is a joint collaboration between Kent Police, Maidstone Town Centre Management Initiative, Maidstone Borough Council, Kent County Council and Maidstone Businesses. The aim is simple; to keep all parties informed of individuals who have a potential to cause trouble, are drunk or generally undesirable. Consequently, they can be monitored and prevented from entering premises if necessary. Currently, 40 clubs, pubs and restaurants are signed up to this new scheme. When used in conjunction with CCTV the scheme allows evening town centre premises to be aware of possible problems and the Police to be pre-warned of potential trouble and its location.

Terry Fowler said, 'Although Nitenet will not solve all the problems, it certainly does allow a closer and co-ordinated observance of problematic people or circumstances and helps all parties involved to work together more effectively. This is a great initiative to further combat town centre crime.'

Maidstone Town Centre Officer PC Jim Watson said, 'This initiative is making Maidstone an even safer place to visit. The aim is to control the source of trouble before it becomes a problem.' Asked about the effect it would have on local pubs and clubs PC Watson added,' In the past if anyone caused a rumpus in one pub they would move on to another and cause further trouble. However, because all the pubs and clubs listen in on the same channels they are immediately aware of undesirables. This gives the duty manager or security operative the opportunity to turn them away before they enter their premises.' One of the biggest Storenet schemes in the country is in the City of Manchester. The scheme, which has a Nitenet scheme running alongside it, has nearly 500 two way radios.

Michael Rawlings, Retail Crime Officer of Manchester Storenet said,’ Manchester faces the same pressures faced elsewhere in the UK. A fast paced world breeds desperate and quite aggressive people who are sometimes fuelled by drink and drug habits. Here the radio is the Equaliser and says to the user that you don’t have to suffer this sort of nonsense.'

He added, 'Storenet has helped reduce retail crime and has reduced the fear of crime because it has 24 hour, 365-day year coverage with a police presence. With Storenet we can see the user, talk to the user… a user never ever needs to be on their own. This message has hit home because every month at our (RCO) Retail Crime Operations meetings I always announce that new users have been added to our scheme.' The Manchester Storenet scheme is so big, it is divided into 5 geographical zones. Each zone has a volunteer zone manager who is all security officers.

Michael Rawlings said, 'The zone managers are the eyes and ears of the scheme. If they see a problem, they tell me so that I can act upon it. We have periodic zone manager meetings where we can continually appraise the performance.'

Most of the major stores in the town centre are involved with Storenet. The list of users include Greater Manchester Police, CCTV room, Street Wardens, City Rangers, the town hall, bank, building societies, NCP car parks (who have 60 radios) and even a church. Michael Rawlings said, 'Our Nitenet scheme has about 150 radios, which should in time overtake the Storenet system, as the night-time economy in Manchester is huge. Railtrack have also a Storenet radio in the control room at Piccadilly station, which is important, because it gives us forewarning if there are impending problems coming in by rail into the city. So before they even get here, we know that they are on their way. If you add the radios together there are about 500 radios in operation in Manchester City centre.'

Michael Rawlings said, ' I am convinced that Storenet together with CCTV technology saves the UK judiciary system money. If a crime goes to court, the court receives the all the information regarding CCTV footage and Storenet involvement and the plaintiffs usually plead guilty. Instead of a lengthy trial the case is dealt with quickly saving a great deal of money and court time. I find that very impressive.'

Ian Lockyer, Marketing Manager at radio manufacturer Icom (UK) Ltd said ‘The Storenet system is a powerful format that brings whole communities together, co-operating and communicating again. I think that is pretty impressive! In addition, the flexible and adaptable nature of the schemes provides real solutions to the wide variety of problems towns and cities are trying to solve.

To view our latest range of two-way radio systems, visit the two way systems page of this website.

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