New Castle News

October 30, 2013

Security increasing at courthouse

Mary Grzebieniak
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Visitors to the Lawrence County government center will notice tighter security.

In the past, they have been asked routinely to empty pockets of any metal items and place them in baskets, put purses and other bulky items on a conveyer belt, then walk through a metal detector.

However, starting this week, if anyone sets off the metal detector — no matter who they are — security personnel will “wand” them. The wand will detect exactly what the offending metal is — a belt buckle or some more serious metallic object hidden in a pocket.

While many people have been let through in the past because security personnel recognized them, Commissioner Steve Craig said, everyone who sets off the machine will be wanded, including the county commissioners.

Other changes are in the works, although the commissioners said the rollout of those changes will be gradual.

For example, employees will no longer be able to use their swipe cards to enter various courthouse doors. All except certain employees, for example sheriff’s deputies, and certain other personnel, will have to use the main entrance and go through the metal detector. This change will take some time to implement, because some of the swipe cards will have to be reprogrammed, the commissioners noted.

Additional interior and exterior security cameras also will be installed, thanks to a $200,000 Federal Emergency Management Agency grant recently obtained by Brian Melcer, head of the department of safety.

Officials also are looking at other ways to enhance security. The enhancements will extend to other offices, including domestic relations, adult probation, central court and the Gettings annex.

District court buildings and court offices upstairs already have enhanced security, with directives coming from the state.

The changes were the result of ongoing meetings with department heads and elected officials.

In addition, Commissioner Dan Vogler said, they are a response to the “almost weekly shootings or attacks in public facilities” in this nation.

“We will all be a little more inconvenienced,” but everyone will be safer, he added.

Commissioner Steve Craig pointed out that many people going into the courthouse are not happy and prosecution of “unsavory characters” draws a “dangerous mix” of people to the courthouse.

“The libertarian part of me says to throw open the doors of the courthouse and welcome everyone,” he said, “but you shouldn’t feel unsafe when you are in here.”