Adding Sound and Safety

Adding Sound and Safety

Customs checkpoint areas at JFK airport gets a little help from friends

John F. Kennedy International Airport is the sixth busiest airport in the United States, handling more than 59 million passengers last year alone, according to the 2017 Traffic Report by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Located in New York City, only 15 miles from Manhattan, JFK airport serves as a gateway to the U.S. for travelers coming from destinations across the globe.

A key part of facilitating safe travel is ensuring that dangerous people and substances do not enter the country. In July, immigration officials arrested a woman—a U.S. citizen arriving at JFK airport from Mexico—who had concealed more than nine pounds heroin valued at $300,000.1

At JFK Airport, immigration officers process hundreds of international passengers per flight. With the continual influx of people combined with limited staffing, law enforcement personnel are increasingly looking for technologies to enhance their efforts to deter illegal entry or trafficking and aid in crime investigation.

The Need for Audio Clarity

In 2018, immigration checkpoint areas at the JFK airport needed to upgrade their current security system with new, high-performing technologies. Immigration and law enforcement officers were interested in an audio monitoring solution that could produce clear audio. Previously, JFK Airport international terminal one had been outfitted with standard video surveillance and microphones. Much like any airport, the high noise levels caused complications for the audio equipment, which picked up ambient noise making playback challenging.

To troubleshoot the issue, immigration officers turned to systems integrator American Integrated Security Group (AISG). Based in College Point, N.Y., AISG is one of the security industry’s leading systems integrators, specializing in the design and deployment of open platform integrated systems for several industries including government, transportation and utilities. The integrator later called in audio security company, Louroe Electronics, to assess the terminal’s audio system.

The team did a full onsite evaluation of the current audio setup and were able to identify the limitations of the current system, which were due to the type of microphone deployed and where they were placed. The audio manufacturer also showed immigration officials new audio solutions that could enhance the entire security system.

Security Upgrade and Installation

In order to improve situational awareness in terminal one, a new audio system was designed to include the deployment of over 100 microphones, which AISG installed in the fall of 2018. The new system enables audio capture capability throughout each step of the immigration and customs process—from initial checkpoint areas all the way to interview and secondary screening rooms.

Louroe’s Verifact L-DT microphones are placed at all 32 passport-check podiums to verify interactions travelers have with officers. Designed as a bi-directional microphone that adheres to tabletop or counter surfaces, the L-DT picks up sound from both the officer and passenger while minimizing background noise. For individuals detained by agents for additional questioning and asked to stand in the waiting area behind the podium, the omnidirectional Verifact B-6 microphone is deployed. In this setup, the B-6 is mounted on the high ceiling while the microphone element is hung down and able to capture audio from several feet below.

Bag checks are another important step in the immigrations process. To ensure that all sound is captured during screenings and searches, Verifact LD-T microphones are mounted on the podiums in the baggage area, as well as the B-6 in the surrounding area to capture any additional sound. The sound from both microphones is combined via the company’s RN-2 audio mixer, which allows security staff to get a larger area for that station.

For suspects who require further screening or questioning, officers required audio equipment in interview rooms, booking areas, and holding cells. For these applications, the Verifact A is simply mounted on walls and ceilings in each interview room and holding cell, and strategically placed on the booking area ceiling. The microphones can be integrated with all video surveillance cameras and video management systems.

Technology Benefit

Having exceptional audio is imperative for operations, so that immigration officers can not only see but also hear exactly what is being said. The audio also helps them to better assess individuals. When reviewing footage either in real-time or for forensic evaluation, immigration officers look for any visual, physiological and verbal cues that might indicate falsehood or suspicious behavior. In this regard, the audio has helped customs officers gather additional information.

The sound component of the security system also gives officials peace of mind, knowing they have complete audio coverage of the entire immigration and customs area and that a verbal record of all needed conversations will be clear and fully admissible in court.

Cost-Savings

Not only did the new solutions produce exceptional sound quality for the application, but they also yielded a cost-savings. With the ability to place the microphones directly into the surveillance cameras, the integrator didn’t have to install an additional interface to send the audio to the video management system.

Additionally, when working with traditional legacy or analog equipment, every microphone and camera requires its own power supply. Running cable through an airport from the switchboard location to the installation area is expensive and quite a challenge due the constant flow of people. To solve this issue, the organization deployed the IFPX solution, which powers audio and video equipment by a single Cat-5 cable.

By eliminating the need for extra equipment and cabling, immigration officials were able to save on infrastructure costs and AISG was able to save on installation labor.

Looking Towards the Future

Crime prevention is a top priority for immigration officers at the JFK Airport international terminal. Thanks to its security upgrade, officers are better equipped to deal with the everyday challenges they face. In fact, they plan to deploy the audio solutions in other areas of the airport, including international terminal seven. Immigration officials are committed to adding sound and safety to their operations at JFK airport and protecting the public and our borders from harmful materials and people.

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2019 issue of Security Today.

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