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.