Huge PTZs Lined Up Inside The US Post Office? Why?

Take a look at this because it is one of the more bizarre surveillance set ups I have ever seen in a real organization.

Here's a closeup of one camera:

And here's a row of them:

They are really big, they look to be speeddome PTZs and they have no visible external markings.

Not only does it seem to be a waste of money, they are a real eye sore.

I am pretty sure that they these are relatively new (year or so) as I have been to the branch before and do not recall seeing something so big....

So what is the US Post Office thinking or doing here?


Bigger is better?

Are they they only cameras in the room?

It's a small room, maybe 2000 square feet at most. It's just a Post Office line / waiting area.

There's also an old Axis camera perpendicular to those 4 PTZs, see:

My guess: Cut & Paste RFP

There are potentially lots of floorplans for post offices, and the exact layout could differ between each.

By specifying PTZs 'centered above each clerk station', it is specific enough to be useful in any branch, and the PTZ allows for the staff to fine tune FoV without needing to argue about camera selection, labor dollars, or defining the target FoV in the bid package.

A purchasing clerk in the mainland can write an RFP without ever setting foot in HI, or any other countless remote Post Office. They can just dust off this generic spec, spend more on PTZs, but potentially save thousands hammering out an efficient design on site.

The no-name camera markings reveal the fact bottom-dollar submissions win the bid.

My question on that hypothesis is that most post office lobbies are fairly narrow / small. It's hard to imagine them needing more than one, even if they use one. But one for each 'teller' / rep?

How sure are you that they all be PTZs?

Wouldn't be as loco if they had them multi-imager domes, one on the customer, one on the money box, one towards the back room.

Did you feel a little self-conscious takin pictures of security equipment in a public place?

They might be fixed cameras but they had smoked bubbles. That, plus their enormous size, are two give aways of it being a PTZ.

Sounds like some investigative reporting is in order, starting with branch management.

My suspicion is that such purchasing is done centrally. Yes/no?

It would strike me as strange if the branch had any input on this.

If you guys decided to do it, it's up to you how. I was just thinking for myself, if I were to tackle it, I'd probably have to find out from the branch manager first where the decision was made. Essentially starting from ground zero to find the lead of where to go next, as I imagine there would probably be at least several people and departments layers to go through to find who made the decsion to install these types of cameras and what was the process by which they were selected. Maybe everything is some sort of procurement document that details that: who the requester was, the justification, and the vendor source.

You could work at that full time for the next 20 years and my guess is you would be no further at getting an answer than Ari was after poking around for an hour simply looking for a make/model.

Sir, There are those around you would try to dissuade your line of questioning, but do not stray, your intuition is correct: Just continue to "Follow the money..."

Deep Undisclosed

I spent about an hour looking through PTZ camera listings and housing listings, and cannot identify the brand. It almost looks like a Pelco Spectra IV SE housing, but not exactly.

So, not just too many cameras, but too many cameras of an unknown, no-name, potentially junky brand (I think- if someone can identify these domes I will be glad to admit my error).

Could it be a Pelco akin to this one: (or predecessor)?

The form factor seems similar, and it seems remarkably close to numerous specs (including smoked dome, 35x analog zoom, 540TVL (IC), WDR, encoder support for Pelco P PTZ protocol, etc.) called out in the USPS RFP awarded to Diebold:

While this FBO notice is a few years old, the contract for up to 40,000 USPS locations supported a 12 year period of performance.

Horace, good find on the USPS RFP. An award from 2008 implies a rollout likely lasting into 2009 and 2010 (considering how big the post office is). Those cameras at the location also look to be about 5 years old as well (certainly the Axis one).

Could these dimensions be right? < 6 inch domes?

Could it be a Pelco akin to this one: (or predecessor)?

Yeah, a Pelco Spectra IV SE, like I said.

@Ari, @Horace - I'm embarrased to say I looked longer than Ari and didn't find anything as close as this one (the picture from Horace's link)

Back Box Spectra IV SE back box options include the following models: environmental in-ceiling (ideal for outdoor soffits), indoor in-ceiling, indoor surface mount, and standard and environmental pendant.

So maybe its the indoor surface mount version? And maybe its got those three vent slots, or whatever they are, on the other side?

Let"s focus back on the question of why they are using PTZs at each station. Anyone know?

My understanding is that the contract is still active and installs are still occurring (if the options have been exercised). It was expected to support ongoing installations for up to 12 years. The RFP indicates that PTZs will support internal investigations, while fixed cameras will support both internal investigations and robbery/burglary/countermeasures. This was implemented not so long after the term "going postal" was coined. Could at least 35X analog zoom posted right over employees help with that? I would think you could count nose hairs... The RFP gives a great deal of information, and calls out a fair amount of very specific detail with minimum specifications on a wide array of equipment. The cameras, encoders, and VMSs seem quite specific. They also specified HP servers and Cisco switches (although perhaps that's what the USPS IT is comfortable with?). For those of you who routinely respond to RFPs, is this level of detail within Statement of Work at all typical? The RFP hyperlink was broken in the above post. Here it is again: https://www.fbo.gov/index?s=opportunity&mode=form&id=f1772379ff564390949fb6cbf2b7fc1e&tab=core&_cview=1 ...and here's the link to the Statement of Work: https://www.fbo.gov/utils/view?id=20c8872407eb93a1c64dc489d88220d7 P.S., paragraphs and white space are clear in the edit window but all run together after posting. I don't see the formatting tools in the edit window (eg bold underline etc). Maybe IPVM has implemented a new feature in which a lack of formatting simply reflects the lack of clarity of thought presented? LOL

Good Info!

Use the link icon to post urls, its the one to the right of the play icon, it looks like 3 links in a chain.:)

Let"s focus back on the question of why they are using PTZs at each station. Anyone know?

I cannot imagine why. Any advantage to using PTZs would be offset by the need to employ an operator to constantly control the PTZs. Maybe they said "alright, lemme get a camera viewing the customer, a camera viewing the postal worker, a camera viewing the transaction field, and a camera viewing the area behind the postal worker" and then some bright person said "ya know, you could save money by just installing the one PTZ instead of four cameras!" and the the first guy said "you're a genius!" and then they laughed so hard they fell off their barstools and got cut off by the bartender.

I would think that we should ask the sales rep that sold this what his though process was. Unfortunately, it's a nice Sunday afternoon in spring, which means that the sales rep and the responsible bureaucrat are probably hanging out on the boat, the "USS Taxpayer Funded".

This is the federal government, it doesn't need to make sense.

Quite a lot of info about the exact USPS cctv requirements can be found here. Apparently they run two seperate systems. See sections 5-7. looks like ptz's are a requirement for every lane. It also looks like they might be doing remote ptz for OIS. Here's a couple screen shots

1) PTZ are larger. Some customer locations such as bank lobbies (and now the USPS) want a visable deterance. I have been to sites where cameras are purposely not flush mounted for this reason. This falls in line with CPTED and the 5-D's of physical security to deter people.

2) The PTZs could be connected to a panic switch or similar to look at the lobby, doors, etc. in case of emergency.

3) PTZs come with a lens. No need to worry about specifying the wrong lens, limited zoom on lenses for high ceilings, etc....

This falls in line with CPTED and the 5-D's of physical security to deter people.

Deter, detect, delay, deny, and... dis job gets to me sometimes?

PTZs come with a lens. No need to worry about specifying the wrong lens, limited zoom on lenses for high ceilings, etc....

Yeah, spending an extra $2,000 to save the 45 seconds it takes for an experienced security professional to specify the correct lens is a compelling business case. Well, yeah, okay, 45 seconds times however many cameras it is. Still, though.

45 seconds times however many cameras it is...

You bill by the second, Ari? I heard you were in demand but...What's your rate p/s?

I bet you round up the tenths, am I right? ;)

There are two post offices in zip code 96814.

45 seconds per camera (plus 15 seconds to type in the information, plus 5 or 10 seconds to read the next line) for six cameras times two post offices is close enough to 15 minutes to ethically round it up. Let's say you charge $75 an hour, that's $18.75 they lost by going with $2,500 PTZ cameras instead of $300 fixed cameras with individually specified lenses and not just letting the installer focus the varifocal kit lenses at point of install. Well done, government.

Come on Ari, fight fair! You think you can just beat me down with your greater industry experience, your superior natural intelligence and your impeccable comedic timing, well ok, fair enough. ;)

I would agree that PTZ's (if their capabilities ard not really needed) are a waste, but let's try for some even-handedness here.

To Brian's point way back, how many times have you ever had to refocus or change fov of a fixed dome after the first time? (Including all the times you did it for $0), Not because of you, just because the user needs to see a little more over here or there... Or a new manager wants to change a bunch of cameras. And this time add in the travel time/expenses to "roll" a truck. Also, is it me or is a bit disingenuous to quote to quote the ptz at $2500 and the dome at $300? Sure you can find those prices if you look, but are they likely to be for the same manufacturer and quality?

Disclaimer, I do not work for Diebold

This is silly. There are lots of fixed dome cameras with remote auto focus, that only cost a modest premium over 'regular' fixed cameras. If you want to refocus remotely, the choice is not between fixed and PTZs but between 'static' fixed cameras and ones with auto-focus built in. There is no need to go full PTZ just to simplify FoV or focus adjustment.

I have some first hand knowledge of at least part of this process.

Diebold did indeed get awarded the contract for the CCTV upgrades at most (if not all) the Post Office facilities. I worked on the bids for the larger International Post Office Distribution facilities in Northern California for both access control and the CCTV systems. Early on I could see where the Post Office was heading with the CCTV systems so I dropped out of that (thank god) - There definitely is a pre - scripted system design, its definitely older and needs to be updated - the reason it is going to stick is because it is definably better than what the USPS has currently (think VCR's, yes, with tapes) Now imagine a post office, and imagine the site that receives all the mail for probably 3-400 post offices - HUGE - and only then can we begin to consider how far behind these facilities are in video security.

The design only works because no one at the USPS has the will, the knowledge or the drive to change it. I hate the bidding process, its usually a question of how badly does it fail rather than how close does it come to succeeding.

The bid for the access control is nearly as antiquated - most of the locks being spec'd to be installed are Mag Locks, or strikes, with rex's above the door. About 7-8 years behind at the best case scenario.

USPS uses these cameras for Point of Sale coverage. The USPS has several groups operating surveillance cameras and they don't all follow the same spec.

It makes sense that they use them for point of sale coverage. The question is why PTZs rather than fixed cameras?

The setup is a like a bank. Clearly you want a camera over each 'register' / customer but why a big speeddome directly over head?

The majority of theft at the USPS is internal and the areas behind the register can be just as interesting. Most of the USPS IP camera project leverages smoked or reflective PTZ lenses, not sure about this application, which provide investigators with covert positioning of the PTZ.

It makes sense that they would want to look behind the register.

The challenge with a PTZ is (obviously) that it can only look in one direction at a time. To that end, it would seem 2 fixed cameras - one looking forward and the other looking back would be less expensive, deliver more evidence and less aesthetically disconcerning that big speeddomes right over the customer's head. Yes/no?

This looks like an analog installation, which has a new life with one group in the USPS. That being said all bets are off with regards to their camera/placement choices.

Bucking the trend I am going to go out on a limb and say that most, if not all, of the Spectra IV/III domes John shows do not have ptz drives inside, instead I believe that they are fixed domes and/or fixed box style cameras mounted inside of the oversized domes.

My conjecture rests upon four pillars of supporting evidence:

1. Its technically feasible and relatively simple to implement using the dd5-fm adapter:

2. The mail facility design guide (2012), security section, instructs for all sizes of retail post offices explicitly calls out only one fixed camera for each lane pointed at the customer. (Additionally there may be a requirement in certain facilities for an additional OIG (Internal Investigative) camera to be pointed at the register, although this is technically a different system than 'security system'.)

3. John's argument about needless capabilities and Ari's about needless expenditures show that it would be quite a blunder if they really are PTZ's

4. Some of the pictures look like a slanting box camera (to me), in particular the dome in the third window from the right. Also from the pictures on the web it seems like there is too much 'air' in the bottom of the bubble...

As for why? Nothing that stands out but the spec says that sometimes two fixed cameras are to be used so maybe one looking out and one down? Or maybe the box cameras were already purchased and installed but were rather indimidating pointing obviously at the customer so they retrofitted surface mounted domes to keep the cameras and the fov.

John, can you share the branch name, is it the one for IPVM's zip?

It could be "fixed box style cameras mounted inside of the oversized domes."

The location is the Honolulu downtown one.