My Two Census

Formerly the non-partisan watchdog of the 2010 US Census, and currently an opinion blog that covers all things political, media, foreign policy, globalization, and culture…but sometimes returning to its census/demographics roots.

Posts Tagged ‘Data capture’

Courier-Journal: Jello powder disrupts Census work in Jeffersonville

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

H/t to Harold J. Adams of the Louisville, Kentucky Courier-Journal for the following report about one of the Census Bureau’s three data capture centers:

A red powder that prompted authorities to evacuate a Census Bureau warehouse in Jeffersonville on Tuesday morning turned out to be Jell-O.

That’s according to David Hackbarth, director of the bureau’s National Processing Center on East 10th Street.

Hackbarth said similar incidents have happened multiple times since the census began.

About 200 employees were forced to leave the warehouse about 8 a.m. after the bureau’s onsite response team could not identify the powder found along with a mailed-in census questionnaire in an envelope opened by a worker an hour earlier. The all-clear was given shortly before 1 p.m.

A 20,000-square-foot work bay was on lock-down with no one allowed in or out during the hour that census officials investigated the substance. Then it was determined to evacuate the 200 workers who had been isolated in the bay and call 911 to get help from the Jeffersonville Fire Department and the National Guard’s hazardous materials team in Louisville, Hackbarth said.

The employees were kept out of the building during the National Guard investigation.

“This makes our nineteenth incident since we started the census” in March, Hackbarth said.

In sixteen of the previous incidents, Census Bureau security was able to determine the substances were harmless without calling in outside help. Two other incidents did require National Guard help, but were also found to be harmless, Hackbarth said.

The evacuation of the warehouse temporarily suspended the processing of incoming census forms, he said, but other operations proceeded normally.

“Fortunately, we are ahead of our processing curve,” he said.

Security Alert: Haz-Mat teams at Baltimore Census processing facility…again.

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

From the Baltimore Sun…too bad this plot line never made it into The Wire:

Suspicious powder was found this morning at a processing center of the U.S. Census Bureau in Essex, though it was found to be harmless.

The Baltimore County police and fire departments were called around 10 a.m. to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Data Capture Center, in the 8400 block of Kelso Drive, to examine a package containing a small amount of powder, said Elise Armacost, the fire department spokeswoman.

“We did not evacuate the building, no one was showing symptoms, there were no transports,” Armacost said. “People were removed from the immediate vicinity while we were testing.”

The substance was deemed non-threatening, Armacost said.

The plant — which processes 2010 Census questionnaires as they are returned — resumed operations by early afternoon, said Markia McLeod, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Census Bureau.

McLeod said that Baltimore County Hazmat teams have responded to the Essex facility for six incidents since it opened last year. The last time was in March, when powder found inside a census envelope turned out to be coffee creamer.

– Erica L. Green

U.S. Census Bureau and Lockheed Martin Open 2010 Census Data Processing and Call Center Facilities in Phoenix

Friday, November 20th, 2009

As MyTwoCensus has reported on numerous occasions (such as here, here, here, and here), we are extremely suspect of the lax standards for employment at the Census Bureau’s three data capture facilities, such as lack of drug testing and the use of subcontractor after subcontractor being hired to perform tasks that they may not be qualified to perform. These factors are recipes for sensitive-information related disasters:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WEDNESDAY, NOV. 18, 2009

Jack Martin
CB09-CN.34
Public Information Office
301-763-5937
e-mail: <jack.m.martin@census.gov>

U.S. Census Bureau and Lockheed Martin Open 2010 Census Data Processing and
Call Center Facilities in Phoenix

The U.S. Census Bureau today opened its last of three data capture
centers that will process 2010 Census questionnaires as they are mailed
back by households across the nation next spring. The 212,000 square-foot
facility in Phoenix will bring more than 2,800 jobs to the area.

“Processing the 2010 Census questionnaires accurately and safely at the
data capture centers is a crucial step to a successful census,” said Census
Bureau Associate Director for Decennial Programs Arnold Jackson. “The
responses from each form processed at the facility will help provide a
complete count of the nation’s population and a new portrait of America.”

The Phoenix Data Capture Center is expected to process about 30 percent
of the census forms mailed back by respondents. The remaining forms will be
sent to the Census Bureau’s National Processing Center in Jeffersonville,
Ind., and the data capture center in Baltimore. The 2010 Census forms will
be mailed in March, and the majority of the data processing will occur
between March and July.

The call center is one of only 11 facilities to serve as an information
resource/hotline for questions people may have when completing their forms.
The Phoenix professionals will answer questions about the process and
completing the questionnaire, and will follow-up with respondents if their
returned forms are not complete or potentially inaccurate.

Both facilities will be managed by Lockheed Martin. Its subcontractor
partner, Vangent, will manage the hiring efforts for the 2,830 new
employees, most of whom will be hired starting in January 2010. Each worker
will take an oath for life to keep census information confidential. By law,
the Census Bureau cannot share respondents’ answers with any other
government or law enforcement agency. Any violation of that oath is
punishable by a fine of up to $250,000 and five years in prison.

MyTwoCensus Investigation Part 1: Security Concerns At Data Processing Centers

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

Background: The United States Census Bureau will be operating three data capture centers to process the information collected from the approximately 300 million Americans who will be counted in the 2010 Census. These data capture centers are located in Baltimore (Maryland), Jeffersonville (Indiana), and Phoenix (Arizona).

After speaking with human resources professionals who have significant knowledge of US government and subcontractor practices, MyTwoCensus is concerned that the screening processes for people who will have access to highly sensitive information is inadequate.

Here are the criteria for employment at the Baltimore data capture center, which is ostensibly similar to the procedures at the other facilities as well:

Job Title: SCA General Clerk I – Paper Data Processing
City: Essex
State/Province: Maryland
Post Type: Full-Time/Part-Time
Requirements: There are basic requirements for BDCC employment which include:

• U.S. citizenship with documentation or Permanent Residency status (requires valid documentation from the past 2 years authorizing employment)
• 18 years of age or older
• High school diploma or GED
• English literacy
• No felony convictions
• Submission of personal information and fingerprints to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for a suitability assessment. All applicants are required to meet Department of Commerce suitability requirements before employment.

MyTwoCensus is extremely concerned that mandatory drug tests are not part of the criteria for these positions because of the access to sensitive material that will inevitably come with the job. We are also concerned that the lax “no felony convictions” clause means that people who have been accused of felonies but have plead guilty to misdemeanors will likely be working in these facilities. In Maryland, the following crimes are considered misdemeanors:

  • Driving with a Revoked License
  • Reckless Driving
  • Petty theft
  • Prostitution
  • Public drunkenness
  • Resisting arrest
  • Failure to appear in court
  • Disorderly conduct
  • Trespassing
  • Vandalism

With so many Americans who have no criminal records currently unemployed, it is even more ludicrous that the standards for these positions are so low.

Another major loophole is that recruiters are trying to fill these positions now (September and October), but the jobs won’t actually begin until the spring (after Census Day – April 1, 2010). This means that during the next 6 months, people who pass background checks may surely be involved in criminal activities, but because of the time lag, their employers will likely never be aware of the situation.

It should be noted that the “Baltimore Data Capture Center will be managed by Lockheed Martin. Its subcontractor partner, CSC (Computer Sciences Corporation), will manage the hiring efforts for the 2,500 new employees, most of whom will be hired starting in December of this year.”