fb pixel

Log In

Reset Password

Courthouse security tightens

Visitors now go through metal detectors at a single entrance

Getting in and out of the county's courthouse may take a little longer beginning today.

A newly hired security team at the Jackson County Justice Building will funnel visitors through a metal detector . They also will search bags, briefcases and outer clothing, said Bob Kleker, court operations supervisor. An X-ray machine will take over searching personal items in March, he said.

The new equipment is the last phase of a plan to make the courthouse, and particularly its courtrooms, more secure, Kleker said.

It's part of our life a little bit more. Twenty-five to 30 years ago, this might have been more of an inconvenience, Kleker said. The time is right.

Courtroom bailiffs now ask spectators if they have any weapons and advise them to turn off cell phones and pagers. No other questions are asked. Jurors, in particular, frequently commented on the Justice Building's lax security, Kleker said.

Increased security measures in the Justice Building were laid out several years ago in conjunction with a massive construction project. Remodeling the building to create a single point of entry for the general public was the first major step toward controlling foot traffic. Workers accomplished that task last month. The Justice Building previously had seven entrances and exits.

Emergency fire exits still exist, of course, but they are monitored by security cameras and are locked to outside entry, Kleker said.

With only one way to get in and out of the building, in addition to the metal detector's debut, visitors should give themselves enough time to make court appearances and to complete errands, Kleker said.

The Justice Building's busiest hours are Mondays from 10:15 to 10:30 a.m., the time scheduled to check the status of the week's criminal trials. On Tuesdays, more than 80 people enter the building during a 15-minute time span around 8 a.m. Many are jurors scheduled for orientations, Kleker said.

Traffic also peaks between — and 1:30 p.m. every day before the afternoon's sentencing hearings and arraignments, according to a head count that security guards compiled last week.

Once the X-ray machine is installed and guards don't have to search items by hand, passing though the security post should go more quickly, Kleker said.

The new security equipment ' with a price tag of &

36;175,000 ' was purchased with money gleaned from the state's court security fund. Assessment fees tacked onto fines for citations and criminal convictions in state courts are placed into the fund. Jackson County's share is about &

36;120,000 each year, Kleker said. The fund also will pay salaries for one part-time and three full-time security guards, he added.

Kyle Neuenschwander passes through a metal detector at the entrance to the Jackson County Justice Building on Tuesday. New security measures are taking effect this week in the building where county records are kept and circuit court trials are held. Mail Tribune / Roy Musitelli - Mail Tribune Roy Musitelli