County Judge David Silva agreed that the deal was too good to pass up.
“I think we are about two years out from really using them,” he said.
At issue is not only where to install them but also paying for the additional staffing to run the machines.
“It means we will have to have one entrance into the courthouse,” he said.
But, he said, they all know something has to be done to ensure those inside the courthouse are safe.
“It is not a matter of if it could happen here but when,” he said. “We are not immune.”
Courthouse Bailiff Bill Lazenby said that the new security is definitely needed as more and more suspected criminals are coming into the building for their day in court.
“Since I have come here, it has gotten worse and worse,” Lazenby said. “You never know when something is going to happen.”
Silva also reminded that some of the trials held inside the courthouse involve gang members.
Lazenby said that times were different when he first started working courthouse security.
“People come in, and I don’t know what their problem is,” he said. “People are just angry.”
Lazenby, while talking to commissioners during a recent budget hearing, reminded them that many of the people walking through the doors of the courthouse are there not necessarily by their own choosing. They are there not just because of misdemeanor infractions but also felonies.
“What we have in this courthouse is the worst of the worst,” he said. “They all congregate here if they are in trouble.”
Having the new scanners will help because, right now, Lazenby is limited to just a handheld detector.
“If you get a mass of people coming in, it is hard to search them with the wand,” he said. “When you start trafficking in 100 people, it is going to be noon before you get them all in.”
That and checking someone with a handheld device places the officer in a precarious position as they have to bend down to thoroughly search someone.
“If you are checking a suspicious person with a wand, you are on your head half the time,” he said.
These new walk-through metal detectors could be lifesavers, as they will identify if someone is carrying a knife or handgun.
This model, according to its spec sheet, alerts if a person is carrying anything metal, such as a gun or knife.
It will even locate the proximately of the item on the person’s body with lights on the edge of the scanner.
At a value of about $5,000, these walk through scanners are being purchased for $400 each from the Federal Surplus Property Program.
The program accepts donations of surplus property from the federal government. Funding for the program comes from handling fees, such as the $400 for the metal detectors, paid by counties or organizations receiving property.
Commissioner Dennis DeWitt, who help orchestrate getting the metal detectors, described them as the “bedrock” of courthouse security.
He agreed with Silva that they could not pass up the deal on the detectors but added that they still have the option to not purchase them if they are not in good condition.
Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.