Craighead Co. trying to make courthouse and annex safer

By Amanda Hanson - bio | email feedback

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - After the recent security breach at the Crawford County Courthouse, officials are hoping to make the Craighead County Courthouse and its Annex safer. This past Friday, a Craighead County committee met to discuss a plan of action to tighten up security. It's been a while since updates have been made, and several ideas have already been passed around the table.

"That courthouse is so old. I figure it has seven entrances. When it was built, it wasn't built with security in mind," said Craighead County Judge Ed Hill. He adds, times have changed.

You might remember last month out of Crawford County, a man open fire inside the courthouse, and injured a government employee. Judge Hill says while a security plan has been a topic of conversation in the past, it was this incident that really pushed things forward.

"Evidently there hadn't been a whole lot done on court security. With the way things are evolving and the deal over in Crawford County and a few other incidents across the county, it just has more people thinking about it," said Hill.

While both the annex and courthouse have cameras placed throughout halls, panic buttons, metal detectors, and other equipment already in place, a visit by the United States Marshal's Office found cracks in security.

"They looked at this building (the annex) and the other building (the courthouse) to see what we needed to do. They had a seventeen step deal that they looked at where there were seventeen place we needed to work on some stuff," said Hill. Which included securing certain public and employee areas and having an adequate number of security personal with the division of the courtrooms. All of which Judge Hill is looking to change, but says there's been discussion on priorities.

"They (the committee) were kind of looking at doing the whole courthouse, but we didn't think that would be a very good idea because have so many people coming in and out. I think we just need to lean more toward securing courtrooms right now," said Hill. That would include securing floors two, three, and four in the annex. As far as renovations to the old courthouse, Judge Hill says they could look into other options.

"Instead of trying to secure that courthouse, which with seven entrances it will be hard to do. Maybe just take the court away from there and move it to the Federal Building, if that's something feasible. We're looking into several different options," said Hill.@

Judge Hill says he would like to be able to hired a few more deputies, but it will all depend on money. Right now, the county is in the process of applying for grant money and should know more by early 2012.

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