In Video We Trust
Many government agencies are using security technology, but the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) has been committed to advanced security technology for more than a century. Not surprising because the BEP became the sole maker of United States currency in 1877.
Today, the BEP is the largest producer of U.S. government security documents and prints billions of notes (bills) for delivery to the Federal Reserve System each year from production facilities in Washington, D.C. and in Fort Worth, Texas.
Video surveillance is a key component of BEP security. Both the Fort Worth and Washington facilities have recently begun upgrading from analog to digital video surveillance systems and have chosen Loronix Video Solutions from Verint for the process. Benefitting from decades of experience with surveillance, BEP officials have crafted methods to use the new digital systems for far more than just security.
Tom Fowler, manager of the product integrity division at the Washington Bureau, remembers well the events of the first day the new digital video system was put into use. “Almost prophetically, the system was inaugurated on Sept. 11, 2001. The cameras and DVRs were installed and up and running. We were just one hour into the training sessions for the new equipment when we got the ominous notification of terrorist strikes,” Fowler says.
Even as Fowler was notified of the attacks, he was being named acting chief of security. Needless to say, training was abandoned as the facility went into “real life” emergency operations. As the employees of the Bureau conducted tasks appropriate to the situation, the new surveillance system recorded events occurring both inside and outside of the buildings.
Henry Rivero, senior security specialist of the D.C. bureau, adds: “We could actually see, from upper floors, smoke from the Pentagon, which is located just across the river. We used our pan/tilt/zoom (PTZ) capabilities to turn the correct exterior cameras to the scene. These recordings were later reviewed in detail by the FBI as part of their investigations of the incident. We had video of the emergency procedures effectively going into place and scenes of the surrounding streets where security bollards were rising into place and non-essential personnel were calmly evacuating buildings.”
The Bureau designs, prints and furnishes a variety of products, including Federal Reserve notes, U.S. postage stamps, Treasury securities, identification cards, naturalization certificates, special security documents and even White House invitations and other such announcements. All documents with an associated dollar value are designed with advanced counterfeit deterrence features to ensure product integrity, and the process of printing is done under the scrutiny of a state-of-the-art surveillance system. BEP procedures require extensive background checks for personnel hiring and strict security practices on the job. The digital video system has become an additional layer of confidence to ensure that procedures are followed and the facility remains highly secure.
The BEP has a security team monitoring the cameras on a constant basis. They also have remote viewing capabilities for authorized users, thus allowing them to monitor the system from any location using a computer. The security monitoring personnel are not necessarily looking for people slipping $20 bills into their pockets. In fact, Fowler says that there have been no successful attempts involving staff pilfering the merchandise since 1998. Instead, they are looking for abnormalities or inconsistencies in everyday operations of the production facilities, as well as violations in procedures. The system also does a great service to the employees of the BEP as errors are quickly resolved and an employee who might otherwise look suspicious is quickly cleared by the video surveillance system.
For example, the job of a currency examiner is to retrieve packets of $100 bills from a conveyer belt and check them for printing errors. Personnel monitoring the currency examiner will make a report if a packet is missed or any other error occurs on the production line. Another interesting and closely monitored position is the person who checks individual currency notes which are returned to the Bureau as unusable. After inspection and documentation by the examiner, these bills are destroyed. Destroying currency — even damaged bills — could be a tough job. The digital system ensures that proper procedures are followed and examiners are indeed destroying the damaged notes.
With the Loronix Video Manager content analysis and management tools, BEP security personnel can filter through thousands of hours of video data and quickly extract the needed information. This feature has obvious forensic uses in areas of criminal investigation but here, content analysis is really put to the test.
“Each currency note has its own individual identifier similar to a human fingerprint or DNA. For paper currency, the identifier is the serial number. Through meticulous recording of serial numbers, series numbers and denomination amounts, all currency can be tracked to its origin,” Fowler says. “A non-criminal example of this occurred last year when a spot review of the previous day’s video showed a $2 bill that was missing a printed seal. Using the serial number, which was clearly visible in the image, the bill was traced and retrieved even though it was already packed and ready for shipment. Although this error was caught by a human eye, the digital technology made it possible to trace the serial number data quickly. In the future, we hope to link the system with an additional intelligence that would automatically spot and alarm this or other kinds of errors.”
Further uses of the digital data tracking capabilities are conducted by the BEP in the form of 300-500 currency investigations yearly. One type of investigation involves claims of shortages or overages in money transferred to banks via the Federal Reserve System. These claims are quickly resolved by reviewing video of the packing and shipping processes. Significant criminal investigations involving U.S. currency, such as money obtained in drug arrests, are also regularly investigated and researched by the Bureau.
Digital surveillance has gone a long way toward helping BEP streamline its other processes. “Like many other organizations, we conduct random drug testing among our employees. When a subject comes up for routine testing, I am notified before the staff member is summoned for a test. By simply observing the selected staff member until he or she is escorted to the testing area, we can authenticate the tests,” Fowler says. “The same system is used for any dismissals. The security control room is notified to keep an eye on a terminated employee until that person is escorted from the building. It is not unreasonable to consider the possibility that a terminated employee might suddenly find the temptation to compensate himself overwhelmingly. With this type of surveillance there is never any question.”
The system has also been used to investigate and solve ATM transaction disputes. The ATM machine, located within the facility for the use of employees, has a camera that records all transactions. The camera had been removed for repair and an obvious empty spot was in its place. Thinking the missing camera meant no video proof, a man denied having received cash from the machine. Fortunately, other cameras in the area recorded a perfect view of him taking his money from the machine during the time in question.
Rivero relays even more uses for the system, “Video from the building’s exterior cameras is periodically called into use to investigate auto accidents, which occur on the surrounding busy streets. With a clear view of the incident and even the license plates available, “who’s at fault” disputes are quickly resolved. Our system even captured the unfortunate circumstances of a pedestrian being hit by a car near our building.”