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Security's minding the mint.

IN 1990, THE US MINT IN PHILADELPHIA manufactured more than $11 million in 50-cent pieces, more than $150 million in quarters, and nearly $107 million in dimes. And not even one tenth of an ounce of gold, silver, nickel, or copper went out of the facility unaccounted for. You might say, the mint has never lost a dime.

Who's minding the mint? Well, in the Philadelphia facility--the largest mint in the world--the US Mint police force is on duty to make sure the moola stays where it's supposed to. Access into and out of the facility is carefully guarded and employees are carefully screened on a daily basis to ensure the mint's no-loss record is maintained.

The Philadelphia Mint is one of four US Mint in the country. The others are located in San Francisco, West Point, NY, and Denver. The Denver and Philadelphia sites are the only facilities that manufacture coins of all denominations for general circulation. Philadelphia alone manufactures all coinage and medal dies.

In addition to manufacturing coins, the Philadelphia Mint

* performs all engraving for US coins and medals,

* manufacture miniature and multistrike medals,

* manufacture, packages, and ships regular uncirculated coin sets,

* manufactures and packages half-quarter-, and tenth-ounce proof gold bullion coins,

* packages four-coin gold proof sets,

* packages and ships US Congress coins, and

* process all mutilated coins.

Securing assets at the mint is a story of screening. Anything that comes into the building is screened, including people. Anything that goes out the building is submitted to an X-ray machine or a metal detector, including the trash.

According to Robert Morris, chief of the US Mint police force, this method of access control is one of the most effective means of protecting US Treasury assets: "It's a great deterrent just having the metal detector there and making people go through it. We want to leave employees with the mind-set that nobody can successfully remove a coin from here without getting caught." (See accompanying box.)

A need exists for this kind of deterrent. Morris remembers his first year in charge, back in 1988, when an employee was caught trying to steal $222 in quarters. He had placed the coins inside a bag covered with duct tape and then hidden the bag in pair of jeans. The evidence was picked up on the X-ray machine.

Before detectors were placed at the exit door, security officers were located at interior posts throughout the 517,353-square-foot building. Employees were prohibited from moving from one section of the building to another without being hand-scanned to ensure they were not transferring materials.

That method caused the security department a lot of grief. In an effort to improve the security and reduce confrontations between the police officers and employees, a security survey of the building was performed and this new method, where access from section to section is relatively unimpeded but restricted when leaving the facility, came into place.

This is not to say that employees can circulate around the building without thought to security. "A supervisor's allowed to prevent somebody from another area from coming into his or her area," explains Morris.

One exception to the relative ease of access through the facility applies in the area where gold coins are produced. At the sole door to the gold room stands a unique metal detector.

Anyone entering the gold room must first pass through the metal detector three times. With each pass the detector takes the reading of the metal content in the individual's body. Police officers at the post then take an average of the three readings and record it.

To leave the gold room, say for a break or to go home at the end of the day, employees must go back through the metal detector. The reading of the metal in their bodies must fall within a specific range of the average. "Otherwise," warns Morris, "they don't leave. They stay forever."

Actually, Morris is exaggerating, but if something is missing, all forces are called in for a search--managers, security, investigators. And no one comes out until everything is accounted for.

Morris says nothing has ever been stolen from the gold room. One occasion the inventory does not balance at the end of the day--perhaps a tenth of an ounce of gold is unaccounted for--but a rechecking of the books always sorts out the problem.

"If we've exhausted every possibility in accounting," continues Morris, "the next step is to send items through the metal detector, do a hand scan of the employees, and search anyone who doesn't clear the process successfully. But we have never had to go that far. I think it's because we have a quality system that employees know couldn't let them get anything out." And then, of course, you'd have to try to get through the regular metal detector at the exit....

Though passage throughout the facility is relatively undeterred, that doesn't mean that no one is watching. CCTV cameras are located throughout the facility.

As for other means of monitoring the facility, motion detectors are not feasible, explains Morris, because the mint is a manufacturing site, with movement a part of the routine 24 hours a day. In place of that technology, alarms abound. Adds Morris, "Everything that can possibly open is alarmed.

"We have double, triple, and quadruple safeguards," he continues. All doors are alarmed as well as all vaults. And the vaults all have combination locks. But no one person has the complete combination to a vault.

Thus, to open a vault, two people are needed. "Anytime somebody leaves," Morris explains, "the combination to the vault that he or she has had partial access to is changed. It is also changed on a yearly basis."

SAFEGUARDING THE CREATION OF 17 Billion coins and transporting approximately 15.6 billion coins as the mint did in 1990 is an awesome task. But the mint follows stringent procedures to accomplish its mission.

The mint begins the process by purchasing strips of metal about 13 inches wide and 1,500 feet long from contractors that are prohibited by law from selling the materials to others.

The strips of metal arrive at the mint and are fed through a blanking press, which punches out round discs called blanks. The leftover strips are shredded and returned to the factory for reprocessing. The blanks are heated and softened in a special furnace and then washed and dried.

A riddling machine then sorts the blanks out for the correct size. The blanks that pass that test next go through the upsetting mill, where they are rolled on their edges to raise a rim around them.

The upset blanks then go off to the coining press, which is set with dies showing the heads and tails of each coin to be made. After the blanks are placed between the dies, they are stamped with the inscriptions that make them genuine US coins.

According to Morris, it is not likely that someone would attempt to make the dies themselves to counterfeit coins--consider the amount of coinage that would have to be produced to get a return on the effort involved. Any cases of possible counterfeiting are handled by the Secret Service.

Safeguarding the dies, or molds, is a much more critical concern for the US Mint. Since the Philadelphia mint is the only facility that manufactures the dies, their security is paramount. "If anyone possessed sets of dies, they could produce millions of coins," says Morris.

To avoid such a catastrophe the mint has a plan in place, according to Morris: "At any time transport of the dies we never have obverse and reverse dies of the same coin denomination in the same carrier." Also, after each die is used, it is destroyed.

After production, new coins are sent through an automatic counting machine and dropped into canvas bags. Once full, the bags are sewn shut, piled onto pallets, and sent to storage vaults deep inside the mint.

The coins are sent as needed to the Federal Reserve Banks throughout the country by truck. The mint transfers pennies and nickels by tractor trailer, but dimes and higher-denomination coins are sent via armored truck because of the higher value.

A transportation officer from US Mint headquarters in Washington, DC, manages coinage transportation, from choosing contractors to processing clearances for drivers.

Once drivers arrive at the mint, their trucks are physically inspected by mint police officers before the coins are loaded. Once the trucks are loaded, explains Morris, the drivers "are responsible from then on. It's no longer our property."

Transporting coinage through the mail is another major security factor on the minds of the mint's management. Each day thousands of dollars' worth of collectors' coins are mailed out from the mint.

Mailing labels are carefully produced by a company authorized by the mint's headquarters and transferred to each of the mints. "Labels are treated like gold coins," Morris notes. "We can't produce a label here unless we have authorization from headquarters."

The reason for this policy is to avoid the possibility of internal theft. Morris explains: "It's internal threat that we're really concerned about. The chance of someone coming in here and robbing the facility is minimal." It's the chance of someone on the inside--an employee or contractor--leaving the building with government assets or mailing them without authorization that encourages stringent controls.

Another such control is that every package sent out is x-rayed and video-taped. That way if a customer complains that a coin was missing from his or her package, the mint has the evidence on tape to investigate.

THE MINT'S NO-LOSS RECORD IS DUE IN large part to its security personnel. Morris recruits most of his staff from the Philadelphia police force.

He explains that Philadelphia officers can retire from the force at age 45. "If someone retires from the Philadelphia force at 45 or 50 years old, we can still use that individual here for a good 10 years. That way we have a person with 20 years experience--a real quality product."

Morris notes that having a quality product on staff begin with is always beneficial, yet highly skilled individuals transferring their skills from the police department to the US Mint encounter quite a career challenge.

"Police officers, per se, are not security people; they're people people. They deal with people, they resolve differences, disturbances, and disputes," Morris explains, himself a 26-year veteran of the Philadelphia police force. "But in the mint," he continues, "you have to be security conscious. Here you have to challenge everything. Just because something looks OK doesn't mean it is OK. Police officers are very good at policing, but they have to learn security when they work in the mint."

Part of learning security at the mint comes from an eight-week training course at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, GA, a two-week in-house block of training for new hires, and 32 hours of training annually for each officer thereafter. This annual police training schedule covers

* policy authority, powers, and jurisdiction of authority;

* Department of the Treasury's mint rules and regulations;

* search and seizure;

* officer safety and survival; and

* search, scan, and metal detector checkout procedures.

Morris admits that the number one problem his force faces is its relationship with employees when employees exit the facility. "It's just a daily confrontation. Employees may be stressed out from their job and then have to go through the metal detector. It's not so much a security issues as much as it is a person-to-person issue."

Overcoming this obstacle and maintaining its excellent security record is the daily mission of the mint's police force. So if you're wondering who's minding the mint, don't worry. It's in good hands.


BOB MORRIS, CHIEF OF THE US Mint Police, had warned me weeks before the interview: "There are two entrances into the US Mint here in Philadelphia. But there's only one way out and that's through a metal detector. So be sure to leave all your coins with the police officer when you sign in." I assured him that I would remember his warning and be prepared. But nothing can prepare you for that final exit.

When I arrived for that interview, I was escorted to Mr. Morris's office and spent two and a half hours discussing security policies and procedures. Then Mr. Morris took me on a tour of the facility and escorted me to the exiting area.

On the way, he reminded me of the exiting policy that requires everyone to remove all metal objects and then pass through the metal detector. Also, all personal items had to go through an X-ray machine. "No problem," I said confidently.

We entered a brightly lit room with a metal detector and X-ray machine.

This may turn out to be rather amusing, I thought. After all, I had dutifully rendered up all my coinage when I walked in the door before the interview began. Mr. Morris again graciously apologized that I had to go through the screening, but explained, "It's procedure."

Laughing, I removed my earrings, necklace, and Mickey Mouse watch, placed them in a holding bin, and confidently stepped up to the metal detector. As I walked through, however, I set off every red and green light on the machine, alerting the police officer that something was amiss.

I could feel a knot in my stomach starting to form as I turned to Mr. Morris for help. "It's probably your shoes," he consoled me. "The better shoe line have metal in them. Put on these paper slippers, and try it again."

I took off my shoes, put on the slippers, and shuffled through the detector again. This time no lights went off. I felt my confidence returning. But my personal items--purse, briefcase, and wool coat--had not passed through the X-ray machine yet.

Still in my paper slippers, I slid over to the X-ray machine. I stood on the side of the monitor next to the police officer as Mr. Morris stood across from me on the other side of the machine's conveyor belt.

The knot in the pit of my stomach started to gain size as I watched my coat slowly inch its way through. The police officer staffing the monitor noted that all the buttons on my coat showed up on the screen. "No problem," he explained, "That's expected."

Next came my briefcase. Concerned that the microcassette inside would set off a billion alarms, I quickly mentioned that it was in there to the officer. The briefcase passed without incident.

I thought I was home free. My purse was the last to roll through the machine. Suddenly, the belt stopped, and the mint officer stoically announced, "You've got a coin in there." Before I could count to three, two officers appeared at my side.

The knot in my stomach felt like a watermelon. There I stood in paper slippers, stripped of all my jewelry and surrounded by three police officers. All eyes turned on me--including the mint employees waiting their turn to go through the detector so that they could go out for lunch. I, on the other hand, was going nowhere fast.

Mr. Morris was again apologetic that I had to go through this procedure. "Perhaps you should look through your bag to see if it might be something else." Slowly I bent down and began removing items from my bag. I could feel beads of sweat forming on my forehead. What could it be? Then I pulled out my rosary from my purse. "You might want to start saying that soon," joked one police officer. I laughed nervously along with everyone else.

We placed the purse through the machine again. Ivan the Terrible, watching the monitor, again announced, "There's a coin in there."

I'm cooked, I thought. I'll never see my family again. What kind of prison sentence will I get? Things were not looking good for me.

Again I was given my purse to examine. I'm going to jail, I thought. Desperation had set in.

Then I spotted it. Turning my purse to the side, I saw a quick flash of light. Nestled next to an interior seam was a nickel. One nickel. One tiny nickel.

I triumphantly yanked it out of my purse, holding it high so that everyone could see. After the police officer inspected the coin to ensure it was not a 1991 or 1992 coin, that was in production at the mint, I was finally cleared to leave. It was over. I was free at last. Joan H. Murphy is associate editor of Security Management.
COPYRIGHT 1992 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Profile; includes related article; United States Mint in Philadelphia
Author:Murphy, Joan H.
Publication:Security Management
Date:Apr 1, 1992
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