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Licensee Tip # 1: Audio & Video Surveillance

Licensee Tip # 1: Audio & Video Surveillance

Owning and operating a business in California is hard enough.  But for law abiding firearms dealership, range, etc. is nearly impossible.  Keeping up with federal, state, and local regulations and laws is hard enough, but such businesses face daily security risks as well.  To kick off this Licensee Tip series, I thought it appropriate to address the one area of concern that licensees can benefit from on multiple fronts: Surveillance & Appropriate Signage.

The installation of a video recording surveillance system is common place among firearms dealers.  Why?  Security aside, from a business standpoint, it pays to have surveillance.  Nationwide, Farmers, and State Farm have confirmed that installing security camera systems in your place of business will lower your insurance rate. Business owners should ask their insurance agent if installing a security camera system will lower their rate and premium. Insurance companies base their rates on risks, and when cameras are installed, the risk dramatically decreases. Installing a surveillance security system protects your business from risks which include robbery, theft, vandalism, false claims, sexual harassment and others.

  • Robbery/ Break-ins: The last thing criminals want is to be caught on tape.  Having security cameras will deter (not prevent) burglars from stealing. Theft and vandalism cost businesses millions of dollars each year.
  • False Claims: Perhaps an employee claims to have fallen or that a co-worker/supervisor has mistreated them. By installing a video surveillance system, you reduce the risk that you face. Having a security camera system installed throughout your business can effectively lower instances of workplace violence, detect other unwanted employee conduct and record instances of workers’ compensation claims.
  • Inside Theft/Employee Theft: Significantly lower any losses your business experiences due to Inside/Employee Theft by catching employees in the act. Installing security cameras allow you to monitor employee behaviors and deter theft before it happens.
  • Sexual Harassment: Security cameras offer the opportunity to catch and correct sexual harassment behaviors even before a complaint is made. When a complaint is made, a video record will be available.
  • Workplace Safety Hazards: The power to remotely monitor stores, warehouses, and other work spaces can be used to identify and correct any safety hazards. Exterior cameras offer an additional layer of protection for employees as they walk to their cars at night, and for customers. Installing interior and exterior security cameras help contribute to a safer work environment.

Just as many insurance companies reduce insurance rates for safe drivers and for drivers who own cars with GPS enabled tracking devices, Insurance companies also reduce rates for their business customers that install security camera systems.

Not only can you save money from lowered insurance rates and premiums, security cameras are often tax-deductible for businesses which means more savings.  The money your business saves from decreased insurance rates/premiums and tax deductions will usually cover all costs of monthly monitoring fees that security services charge.  Installing affordable security cameras can pay for themselves very quickly, and give you peace of mind from knowing that your business is protected from risks.

Moreover, installation of a surveillance system with audio recordings abilities provides even greater security as well as collateral benefits.

Example: 1: Audio & Video Recording Results in Case Being Dismissed

Davis & Associates represented a shooting range that was sued by a customer who had taken one of the range’s firearm safety courses.  In the lawsuit, an elderly gentleman claimed that he suffered permanent hearing loss based upon negligent hearing protection worn during the course.  Prior to plaintiff filing his lawsuit, we had informed plaintiff’s attorney that the gentleman had signed a waiver of liability, was instructed to keep his hearing protection on at all times during the live fire instruction, and that during the life fire instruction the gentleman repeatedly removed his hearing protection to speak with the instructors while on the shooting range and that the instructors repeatedly demanded that he keep his hearing protection in place.  The customer’s attorney later filed the lawsuit, presumably believing that this lawsuit would be a he-said/she-said case in which the jury would side with an elderly gentleman who allegedly suffered hearing loss over a corporate shooting range.   But . . . on the day the gentleman was to be deposed, he and his attorney were shown and listened to audio and video of the of the the shooting range’s instructors expressly instructing the gentleman and others to maintain hearing protection at all times during the live fire shooting instruction.  The deposition did not go forth that day, but was deferred indefinitely.   Shortly after, the gentleman voluntarily dismissed the case.

It is hard to argue against decent quality audio and video footage that discounts the very basis of a case!

Example 2: Employee Misconduct

Employee issues are always difficult to deal with in California.   Terminating someone’s employment for cause will inevitably result in claims against the corporation.  But, documenting the cause provides a great defense against such claims.  In this example, one of my clients terminated an employee for cause on the basis that the individual was intentionally creating errors on federally mandated paperwork, presumably as a method of protest and to subject the licensee to potential revocation.  Without any surveillance, such a case would be an employees testimony against an employers.  In this climate, employees tend to fair better than the corporations.  Yet, as a result of the audio and video surveillance, clear evidence of the individual employee’s verbal and visual conduct demonstrated that the individual’s actions were his own – saving the business from potential claims.

Example 3: Additional Benefits

As many licensees know, the federal and state agencies with oversight over the licensee’s operations frequently appear, without notice, to inspect the premises and the records – often providing additional verbal commentary, instruction, and  advice.  Following their advice is great (if it is accurate) and builds rapport with the various agencies.  Unfortunately, as many licensees can testify, if you ask any two state or federal agency representatives one question, you can get to very differing answers. And, sometimes, the answers can conflict.  Rarely will the representatives put their answer in writing – leaving the licensee to rely upon the opinions of agents without proof of what was actually said.  If the licensee has an audio & video surveillance system installed on the premises with proper signage, these verbal answers can be documented and saved should a later representative enter the picture with a different position.

Proper Signage:

It is important to note that proper signage is recommended if audio or video surveillance is installed on the licensees premises.  Customers should be notified at each entrance that entering the premises constitutes their consent to audio and video recordings.  While such recordings are becoming more common place, with and without signage, posting such signage deters threats (and straw purchasers) as well as respects the rights of their consumers by placing them on notice.

Cautions:

Audio and video surveillance is a great tool for those individuals in compliance with federal, state, and local laws.  But it can also be used against those entities that knowingly, willingly, or even inadvertently step beyond the line of legality.  In other words, everything you (or your employees) say and do in front of the audio and video surveillance system can also be used against you in a court of law.   Proper, repeated, and enforced training on all federal, state, and local laws should be in place prior to installation of such systems.