Allen Parish Sheriff's Deputy Roy D. Strother searches a bag for contraband at the Allen Parish Courthouse in Oberlin. (Doris Maricle / American Press)
Last Modified: Tuesday, May 06, 2014 11:00 AM
OBERLIN — Visitors and employees of the Allen Parish Courthouse can feel a bit safer now after parish officials beefed up security measures at the historic courthouse.
“It’s a big change, but I think it will be good for the courthouse to help keep everyone safe,” Sheriff Doug Hebert III said.
A walk-through metal detector, similar to those used at most other courthouses and airports, is now located at the front entrance, and access to the courthouse has been limited, with all visitors now entering through a single front door.
All other entrances into the courthouse will remain locked, with limited access available to employees with a special key swipe card issued by the Sheriff’s Office.
As part of the increased security measures bags will be screened, and anyone who has a cellphone, tobacco product, knife or other weapon will be asked to return them to their vehicles or dispose of them before entering the courthouse. Signs posted just outside the courthouse alert visitors of the new restrictions.
“It’s sad in this day and time that we have to do this, to keep violent crimes from occurring, but we would be amiss if something happened and we weren’t prepared,” Hebert said. “If someone is going to do wrong or we do have something happen, hopefully we have been able to minimize where it happens.”
Among the other security upgrades, cameras have been installed in the hallways and courtrooms.
“Most of the people really appreciate what we have done and understand it is a necessity,” Hebert said. “There are a few who have complained that they have been inconvenienced because they can’t have their cellphone, but most agree it is a good step forward.”
Though there have been no major incidents in the past, the extra security measures are meant to make the public and courthouse employees feel safe and keep authorities a step ahead of potential threats, Hebert said.
“We were very fortunate that nothing has ever happened,” he said. “We’ve always had a bailiff in the courtroom upstairs, but if something happened downstairs, no one was around.”
District Attorney Todd Nesom said he has received a lot of compliments from people, especially courthouse employees, who say the increased security measures make them feel safer.
“Most of them say it’s about time,” Nesom said. “A few people are upset because they can’t bring their cellphones in, but most people understand.”
Parish officials have been discussing the need for increased security measures for some time, Nesom said. It wasn’t until the Supreme Court sent a notice to the judges and evaluated the courthouse security that things began happening, he said.
Installation of the enhanced system began last fall, but retrofitting the older courthouse with modern technology created some problems, he said. Crews completed the installation in April and received state fire marshal approval.
Deputies have been trained to handle the walk-through and a hand-held metal detector and how to screen bags for contraband.
Deputy Roy D. Strother said zippers, jewelry, medical metal plates and other metal products create some problems during security screenings.
Since installing the system about three weeks ago, Hebert said deputies have not had to confiscate any items.
Posted By: PQW On: 5/7/2014
How does not allowing a cellphone or tobacco product make anyone safer?
Posted By: OAKDALE On: 5/6/2014
GREAT JOP AP!!