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Saturday, June 22, 2024

OIG Tells CBP to Improve Video and Audio Coverage at Land Ports of Entry

Video and audio quality was reduced by outdated equipment in need of repair or replacement, limited network bandwidth and emergency back-up power, and an unreliable electrical grid.

Federal and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) standards require video surveillance systems that provide camera coverage and recording at land ports of entry (LPOEs) for physical security and to monitor operations and integrity. 

CBP’s Office of Field Operations (OFO) uses the Centralized Area Video Surveillance System (CAVSS) at LPOEs to increase the safety of the public, employees, and property, but the Office of Inspector General (OIG) says improvements are needed to address video surveillance system issues. Specifically, OIG found that CAVSS experienced widespread recording gaps, instances of poor quality video and audio, areas of inadequate video and audio coverage within LPOEs, and inadequate privacy protections for detainees being held at LPOEs. 

Inspectors observed CAVSS video recording gaps at all 10 LPOEs they visited, with some gaps ranging from multiple days to a few months. While onsite, the inspectors confirmed the video could not be played back during the time of these recording gaps. At one LPOE, inspectors observed seven cameras only recording intermittently for 15 days over three months.

In addition, field personnel at 33 of 49 LPOEs that responded to an OIG questionnaire provided video recording reports showing recording gaps ranging from less than a day to approximately 4.5 months. Seven of the 33 LPOEs had at least one gap of more than 30 days. 

OIG found that CAVSS operators and LPOE personnel were not always aware cameras had stopped recording. This is because the only way to know a camera is not recording is by manually checking the system for a red “X” on the device icon. In fact, almost half of LPOE personnel (21 of 49) who responded to the OIG questionnaire were not aware of a problem with CAVSS until they looked at camera footage. 

When asked about video quality, the majority of respondents mentioned blurriness or poor resolution. One respondent stated that the image quality is so poor that it is “impossible to make out faces, [license] plates, makes and models, and sometimes the colors of vehicles.” And about half of the respondents noted unclear/poor audio quality issues such as inaudible voices and microphone feeds not being available in the system.

OIG attributed all of these deficiencies to several factors. Recording gaps were a widespread issue primarily caused by equipment not always rebooting after the Office of Information and Technology applied required network security patches and scans. Video and audio quality was reduced by outdated equipment in need of repair or replacement, limited network bandwidth and emergency back-up power, and an unreliable electrical grid. OIG also found instances in which video and audio coverage at certain locations did not meet requirements due to a lack of coordination when repurposing LPOE rooms and conducting facility projects, funding and infrastructure constraints, and inadequate CAVSS operator training. For example, inspectors found LPOE areas without required video coverage where seized drugs are processed and weighed, seized property and contraband are temporarily stored, and weapons are stored.

Further, LPOEs did not always have the required blurred video or physical structures to protect detainees’ privacy when using lavatory facilities. 

If these issues are not addressed, OIG says CAVSS’ capabilities will continue to degrade, hindering OFO’s ability to increase the safety of the public, employees, and property. Consequently, OIG has made seven recommendations, all of which CBP has concurred with. CBP responded that it is taking several actions to meet these recommendations, including researching new technology such as video management software as well as alternative video surveillance solutions.

Read the full report at OIG

author avatar
Kylie Bielby
Kylie Bielby has more than 20 years' experience in reporting and editing a wide range of security topics, covering geopolitical and policy analysis to international and country-specific trends and events. Before joining GTSC's Homeland Security Today staff, she was an editor and contributor for Jane's, and a columnist and managing editor for security and counter-terror publications.
Kylie Bielby
Kylie Bielby
Kylie Bielby has more than 20 years' experience in reporting and editing a wide range of security topics, covering geopolitical and policy analysis to international and country-specific trends and events. Before joining GTSC's Homeland Security Today staff, she was an editor and contributor for Jane's, and a columnist and managing editor for security and counter-terror publications.

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