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Sunday February 28, 2021
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Patrol Cam

Parking lot surveillance at Kroger

by Kati Shanks

From the February, 2021 issue

Some local Kroger stores closed out the year with new additions beyond face masks and one-way aisles: both the Carpenter and Maple Rd. supermarkets installed trailer-based surveillance towers in their parking lots. Branded "Patrol Cam" and rising twenty feet in the air, the towers seem intended to intimidate as much as aid in solving crimes--along with multiple cameras, spotlights, and a loudspeaker, they call attention the themselves with flashing blue lights that mimic those of a police cruiser.

A Kroger representative would only say that the towers are "added measures of safety surveillance for our stores, our associates, and our customers." Patrol Cam is one of many brands reselling devices manufactured by Utah-based LiveView Technologies, whose website promotes the "completely customizable" installations as both an investigatory tool and a deterrent.

Equipped with solar panels and batteries, the systems were initially marketed for monitoring construction sites. Retail surveillance took off in 2017 with an order from Walmart. Last year, some cities even used them to monitor absentee-ballot drop boxes.

According to LiveView's website, the systems can play prerecorded announcements and warnings that escalate to sirens and strobing lights. Security staff can view both standard and thermal-imaging footage in real time via a web-based platform, and optional two-way communication allows them to converse with people in the parking lot. They can review recorded footage and activate software to recognize vehicles and read license plates. But there's no need to invest in 24/7 monitoring: artificial intelligence software can be programmed to send alerts when it recognizes motion, shoplifting, or even loitering.

Similar towers have been appearing at Krogers around the country since at least the fall of 2019. It's not clear why only two of the local stores have received this treatment--over the last six months, crime in the area of the Maple Rd. store has been comparable to that around the Arborland store, which has no tower--but now that the technology is there, the deployment of these types of installations seems certain to increase.     (end of article)


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