RANDOLPH COUNTY, AR (KAIT) - County courthouses across Arkansas have been inundated with residents in recent weeks as they try to beat the tax deadline.
"Usually after Labor Day it starts picking up a little bit. By the end of September, we get busy and then the first 15 days in October, we work hard," Norma Pickett told Region 8 News.
Pickett has served as the tax collector in Randolph County since 2002 and has worked in the office since 1997. In that time, she's seen statistics regarding targeted acts of violence in courts increase. Pickett said she's attended meetings in Arkansas detailing the problems here.
"A meeting I was in in 2013, I believe they said there was only five reported incidents. In 2014, there were 13 reported incidents in county courthouses."
Just four years ago, someone opened fire in a courthouse in western Arkansas. Nationwide, statistics show that targeted acts of violence in courthouses has increased since 2005. According to the Center for Judicial and Executive Security, there were 19 acts of violence in 2005. In 2012, that number jumped to 84.
"With what's going on in universities and colleges and schools and theaters, we know there's always a threat," Pickett said.
Pickett said her office stays vigilant, not just because of the money they handle but also because not everyone is happy when they have to visit the tax collector's office.
Pickett said security measures like security cameras and panic buttons in the office help keep her and her staff safe.
Pickett said she has had to use her panic button before too.
"If anyone makes a threat at the window or gives us a hard time that we cannot handle ourselves, we can push the panic button," Pickett said. "The only time I had to do that recently, within just a couple of minutes, I had six officers in the hallway."
Pickett said thankfully, any incidents like that are few and far between.
However, they still hope to beef up the security even more in 2016 by adding more security cameras inside and outside the courthouse.
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