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3-18-05 Courthouse Security and Space

To separate the Court functions from bureaucratic functions (a county personnel department and finance do not need to be in the main part of a courthouse.)  Most citizens never visit those offices.  They could move to places requiring less security and free up valuable space for Court functions.

AVOC

 

March 17, 2005

 

Courthouse Security and Space

 

By Wendell Dawson, Editor, AVOC, Inc.

 

The senseless shootings at the Fulton County Courthouse have brought much attention to Courthouse security.   Some blame the Fulton Sheriff and Atlanta Police for poor handling.  AVOC will address some of those concerns in future articles.  Meanwhile, one of the better security review articles has come out of Anderson SC, a close neighbor of NEGA.

 

The Anderson plan to move non-court functions from their courthouse is a good idea.  Courts have the greatest security threats.

 

In Oconee County, the Commission Chair and District Attorney have been sparring over courthouse space.   In Oconee, it seems that the pressure on the Courthouse is coming from a fast-growing bureaucracy and not from court functions.  Planning and Zoning departments do not have to be in the courthouse.  Public hearings do.

 

Most citizens do not need or want to go through a “frisking” and search operation just to go vote, buy a tag, talk to planning etc.  Heightened security is to be expected in the vicinity of courts.  However, much of the other offices in a courthouse could work just as well somewhere else.

 

To separate the Court functions from bureaucratic functions (a county personnel department and finance do not need to be in the main part of a courthouse.)  Most citizens never visit those offices.  They could move to places requiring less security and free up valuable space for Court functions.


The Anderson Independent-Mail

            http://www.independentmail.com/and/news/article/0,1886,AND_8203_3621616,00.html

 

March 15, 2005

 

Non-court offices could leave courthouse to aid security

March 14, 2005

ANDERSON COUNTY

Anderson County officials are considering moving non-court functions out of the new Anderson County Courthouse as part of ongoing improvements called for in a security master plan, Anderson County Administrator Joey Preston said Monday.

In the wake of the Fulton County Courthouse shootings in Atlanta Friday, 10th Circuit Administrative Judge Cordell Maddox had said it was "past-time" for Anderson County to handle the issue of overcrowding at its courthouse, opened in 1992, which puts criminal suspects in close quarters with people paying taxes.

Mr. Preston said moving non-court offices —such as the treasurer, auditor, assessor and register of deeds — would be necessary to accomplish certain security improvements. Those changes and others will be part of a package to be presented to the Anderson County Council for financing before the 2005-06 fiscal year budget is adopted. The cost was not disclosed.

In the meantime, the county plans to continue with piecemeal security improvements at the courthouse and other county buildings recommended by an independent security study in 2002, including better camera surveillance and tighter restrictions on public access — two areas that Judge Maddox said still needed "serious review."

The recently opened Oconee County Courthouse in Walhalla, also part of the 10th Circuit, did not share the Anderson County Courthouse’s problems.

Anderson County Sheriff David Crenshaw already stationed two extra deputies at the courthouse entrances when he took office in January, bringing to 10 the number of deputies guarding the building and courtrooms. State-of-the-art metal detectors and an X-ray machine are new additions to the building’s security network.

Judge Maddox said he plans to meet with Sheriff Crenshaw and Mr. Preston to discuss security further in light of the recent shootings in Atlanta as well as in Tyler, Texas. Several Anderson County Council members already had toured the building in recent months to assess the need for changes.

The courthouse never was intended to be used for non-court related activities, Judge Maddox said. The Solicitor’s Office and the Clerk of Court’s offices are suffering from overcrowding most acutely.

He said the first priority for some of the new space would be a jury room to sequester as many as 200 potential jurors who now find themselves rubbing shoulders with defendants they’ll be sitting in judgement of.

"It’s untenable," Judge Maddox said. "There’s unfortunately going to have to be some pretty major changes."

County Council members Michael Thompson, Cindy Wilson and Bill Dees recently have spoken out about the need to make security a higher spending priority. Council member Fred Tolly also agreed "something needed to be done."

"We can’t equate the safety of anyone with money," Mr. Dees said.


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