Zionsville Times Sentinel

October 11, 2012

Courthouse security upgrade won’t be cheap

By Rod Rose/For the Times Sentinel

— New security guidelines for the Boone County Courthouse, and possibly other county-owned buildings, will be drafted by an eight-member committee.

An incident involving a man who entered the Boone Superior Court II office with a video camera strapped to his head in September triggered the review, although it’s been known for several years security at Boone’s courthouse is well below standards recommended by the U.S. Marshals Service.

Only a handful of other Indiana courthouses have security as lax as Boone’s.

Boone County Sheriff's Office Major Mike Nielsen and BCSO Sgt. Joe Rady updated the Boone County Commissioners on a courthouse security committee’s progress last week.

The committee includes Nielsen, Rady, Sheriff Ken Campbell, Superior Court I Judge Matthew Kincaid and Commissioner Marc Applegate. Nominees remain to be named by the Boone County Bar Association and the Boone County Council, although Councilman Butch Smith told Nielsen and Rady he’d be interested in participating. The Boone County Bar Association will be asked to nominate a member to the committee.

Courthouses should have only one or two secure entrances with metal detectors, a minimum of two guards, and video cameras, Nielsen told the commissioners at their Sept. 18 meeting.

He would prefer one entrance/exit point, Nielsen said.

While the county has three walk-through metal detectors, upgrading security measures will not be cheap.

A panic alarm system in the courthouse is 18 years old and obsolete, with parts no longer available, Rady said. He’s talked to a representative of Raycomm, a security alarm company, who “threw out a figure of $50,000” to upgrade the courthouse system.

The commissioners also want to review installing security at the former Elks Lodge, 220 W. Washington St., which they recently purchased for new office space. Closing on the building was Friday, Oct. 5.

Courthouse security incidents including shootings, bombings and arson attacks, have been increasing, according to the U.S. Marshals Service's Center for Judicial Security and the Center for Judicial and Executive Security.

In fiscal 2003, the CJES reported 592 threat investigations at federal courts; by 2011, that increased to 1,258.

In the 2012 report "Disorder in the Court — Incidents of Courthouse Violence,” the CJES documented 209 violent acts at state courts, with 10 in 2005 and 2006, increasing to 67 in 2011.

Courthouse security is expensive, the National Center for State Courts said in a guide to “best practices” published earlier this year.

A wireless duress alarm system can cost from $975 to $1,185 per unit, the NCSC estimated. Video systems with color, digital and recording capability can cost from $6,200 to $9,100 for a system with single interior and exterior tilt/pan/zoom cameras, 16-channel DVR0 and a 17-inch flat screen monitor. Fixed exterior cameras range from $400 to $600, with interior units from $250 to $400 — but more fixed units would be required to ensure total visual coverage of the secured areas.

Personnel, access card systems, mail screening systems and other expenses would add thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of dollars to a complete security system, the NCSC said.

The National Center for State Courts and the Center for Judicial and Executive Security received a grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance for a 12-month study of available resources such as federal and state grants, Homeland Security funds, court filing fees and other sources, that would be needed for minimal court security.

Nielsen said the security committee would provide regular updates to the commissioners.