Big returns for IRS via surveillance upgrade
Big returns for IRS via surveillance upgrade

Aug 1, 2000 12:00 PM

Most of us only think about the Internal Revenue Service around April 15. And once we toss those completed tax returns into a mailbox, they're out of sight, out of mind - at least until next year.

Once a tax return arrives at its destination, it takes an assortment of security-related technologies to protect the data and the people who handle it. At the Brookhaven IRS Center in Holtsville, N.Y. - a tax processing and telephone customer service center - an integrated video surveillance, access control and intrusion detection system helps ensure that people and data stay out of harm's way.

The 500,000-square-foot, single-level suburban facility employs between 3,000 and 5,000 people during peak tax season. Operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, shifts enter and exit the building around-the-clock. The security system monitors the parking lot, all building entrances and all internal, restricted areas at all times. To meet its security-related challenges, the center recently upgraded its black-and-white, 15-camera surveillance system with a 60+ color camera system provided by Vicon Industries, Hauppauge, N.Y.

Surveillance priorities evolve Prior to its upgrade, the majority of the Center's cameras were mounted to the building's exterior, facing the property's perimeter. Many of the new cameras, which feature pan-and-tilt capability (Vicon's ViStar35 units), are mounted on the perimeter of the property, and they face the building. Additional cameras are installed on the building's exterior and interior.

"The pan-and-tilt capability is a new feature for us, and the color helps us identify people who may pose danger to employees," says Bob Grimm, acting chief of security and administrative services. "When we can better identify people, we can tell officers to watch those who are wearing certain colors. It helps with evidence collection."

The system monitors activity at all building entrances and in the facility's secure parking lot, which is completely fenced-in and features barrier arms and gates to control access. "We use the cameras to monitor traffic backups, or backups at a barrier arm," Grimm says. "We can dispatch officers to control traffic manually, if necessary. The center is especially prone to backups during peak season."

The cameras record continuously, with help from Vicon's AurorA 99 Digital Video Multiplexers. Other Vicon surveillance equipment includes a 64-input by 16-output matrix switcher, which is controlled by a V1300X-DVC Matrix Control Intelligent Keyboard.

"We've used our tapes many times for internal police activities, and to help the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), which requests tapes to be used as evidence for investigations," Grimm says.

As chief of security, Grimm uses his desktop monitor to view facility activity and to evaluate how his contract guard service handles various tasks and situations.

The surveillance system allows for portability, as well - a feature that Grimm plans to employ in the near future. "If we have an employee who is being harassed by an ex-spouse, for example, we can set up a camera to monitor this employee's parking spot," Grimm says. "The portable alarm point feature is also great for temporary surveillance in areas with electrical equipment, gas lines or other sensitive technology. We could also monitor a suspicious vehicle in the parking lot. Any activity will be viewed automatically at the central station."

Integration key asset Camera call-up is integrated with the facility's intrusion detection and access control systems. Any activated alarm point automatically appears on a main console monitor. Recording begins concurrently.

The center's employees are pleased to know the surveillance system is working for them, especially when it comes to parking lot safety. Grimm says, "If you're starting a new project, buy everything at the same time so it all works well together. First, we purchased the right, upgraded lighting for our parking lot. Then we bought the right cameras to go with the lighting."

The Brookhaven IRS Center is currently building a remote facility about a mile away.

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