Fixed license plate recognition cameras create a virtual fence at shopping centers and malls for improved safety and security.


Reports of an uptick in holiday spending this year bode well for retailers. And while online stores will get a bump in sales, the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) predicts a 3.5% increase in spending at physical retail stores compared to a 2.2% jump last year. That’s great news for retailers. But what can shopping centers and malls do to attract more of those holiday shoppers for retailers? Sales? Promotions? Santa? Sure, those are all good, but what role do security and safety play for shoppers?

It turns out that shoppers will reward the malls and shopping centers that are safer. And right about now, we are all seeing the local news doing their annual stories that tell shoppers how to stay safe when shopping. The stories focus on things like being aware of your surroundings, parking in well-lit areas, and not leaving packages exposed in your car. The stories also highlight strategies the malls and shopping centers are taking to increase security – strategies like creating a virtual fence to detect vehicles entering and exiting the mall or center.

Eastview Mall Adds Fixed Cameras

One such location is the Eastview Mall in Victor, New York. The mall has partnered with the Ontario Office of the Sheriff on a safety measure aimed at preventing crime and creating a safer shopping environment for shoppers and the mall’s staff. Working with our partner Brite Computers, the mall and the Office of the Sheriff have implemented Vigilant’s fixed license plate recognition (LPR) camera solution to read license plates of vehicles entering and exiting the mall. If a plate is on a law enforcement hotlist, the Office of the Sheriff gets an alert notifying them. Combining the license plate data with analytics allows the Office of the Sheriff to develop leads in organized retail crime (ORC) activities (group shoplifting rings) and other criminal behavior taking place at the mall.

Safety Impacts Sales

Security is a real issue for malls. It stands to reason that the safer people feel, the more inclined they will be to visit a shopping center. While many mall crimes take place in the parking lots, if the crimes don’t occur there, the lots are the entry and exit points for the crimes. And that’s why fixed camera solutions make so much sense. They provide a virtual fence that detects all plates at strategic points in the parking area including entries and exits.

Virtual fences and high-tech license plate recognition can sound a bit intimidating at first, but it’s quite simple. The cameras take pictures of the license plates required by law to be visible in public, and the software reads the characters of the plate and notes the date and time of the image capture. While privacy is a big concern for everyone, these cameras are only capturing what you can see with your own eyes in public. No personal information is collected by the camera or appended to the camera data, as this practice is already governed by a strong federal law called the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DPPA). The system can also record video from the same camera, acting as another set of eyes in parking lots to possibly capture images of the “guy in the blue coat” stealing packages and purses from shoppers as they walk to their vehicles.

Safer Holiday Shopping Ahead

Fixed camera solutions are popping up all over the country in shopping centers and malls, even in college campuses and neighborhoods, as a way to find out when wanted or suspect vehicles are entering an area, or as a way to identify vehicles associated with crimes committed in the area. And fixed camera solutions work – Vigilant’s solution and network of vehicle location detections have helped to develop leads and solve cases of child abductions, murders, missing persons, theft, assault, and even terrorism events.

Fixed camera solutions at malls and shopping centers protect the centers against known threats by using hotlists, and they provide the ability to more effectively investigate crimes after they occur by having visibility of the vehicles entering the parking area. Ultimately, it adds up to an investment in proactively preventing crime and keeping malls and shopping centers safer for everyone. And as the holidays kick off, that’s good news for everyone.