Digital video aids Hill police

The Capitol Hill police know they need more manpower. But they also know

that manpower only goes so far.

So when the killing of two Capitol Hill police officers by a lone gunman

in June 1998 prompted Congress to allocate more than $100 million to improve

security in the Capitol Hill complex, the police hired TASC Inc. to install

a sophisticated digital video surveillance system that should dramatically

improve their ability to spot and react to security threats.

The first phase of installation consists of a digital video network

complete with a primary, backup and communications server. It will be completed

by early July, said Tom Smerczynski, infrastructure protection program manager

at TASC, a division of Litton Industries, which along with Scientech Inc.

are the two main contractors for the project.

"The digital video is the driver of this whole system," Smerczynski

said.

Tying in a digital, closed-circuit television network is the second

phase of the project. The Capitol building has a closed-circuit system,

but the new one will have advanced camera technology to feed the digital

video network.

"The closed-circuit television system will take in the information from

the camera technology in the field and pass it along to the digital imaging

system," Smerczynski said.

TASC designed the digital video monitoring system to include immediate

replay, freeze frame and digital zoom of all recorded data.

Because the new video system will record data digitally, instead of

with traditional analog signals stored on videotape, law enforcement officials

will be able to quickly store, index and access all security camera footage.

They will also be able to easily extract images for review or distribution,

and access archived images while still monitoring an exact location or multiple

locations in real time.

"You can see what was on Camera 6 last Thursday at 3 o'clock, and you

can do it right at your own PC," Smerczynski said.

The initial five-year, $5 million contract was awarded to TASC by the

Transportation Department's Volpe National Transportation Systems Center.

Volpe provides technical research, analysis and systems engineering services

for DOT and handles the logistical needs of civilian and government agencies.

The new system will use digital- compression recording technology that

enables continuous recording without consuming large amounts of network

bandwidth or storage resources. "Video [streams] have such large file sizes,

and you don't want to clog the pipeline with [them]," said Anthony Ibarra,

president of Digatron Inc., which is working for TASC on the Capitol project.

Ibarra said the compression technology — developed by Loronix Information

Systems Inc. in Durango, Colo. — produces a video data stream that can take

up as little as 3 percent of the bandwidth on a 10 megabits/sec Ethernet

network. Besides reducing the burden on the network traffic, the compressed

files also require far less storage space.

TASC hired Digatron — which designs, installs and maintains electronic

and computer integrated security, surveillance and fire systems — to integrate

the switching devices that connect the cameras to the digital video system.

The devices take an incoming video stream and route it to different output

devices, including monitors and digital recording equipment.

Smerczynski said the Capitol Hill police deserve credit for carefully

considering how to spend the money it received from Congress. "They have

consulted with Volpe and the contractors and have done a good job of thinking

the problem through to get a good security system, without hindering operations,"

he said.

In the future, TASC may incorporate behavior-pattern recognition and

facial recognition technology into the surveillance system, but plans and

implementation dates for those features have yet to be finalized, Smerczynski

said.

In addition to the technological upgrades, part of the appropriation

will be used to pay for an additional 215 Capitol Hill police officers,

according to Lt. Dan Nichols, Capitol Hill police public information officer.

— Natasha Haubold contributed to this article.

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