Public views new courthouse security checkpoint as necessary inconvenience
Under a new security system, residents with business at the Jefferson County Courthouse must first pass through a metal detector and have their bags screened before entering.
Most area residents questioned about the new security checkpoint at the Jefferson County Courthouse said it was a little inconvenient, but necessary for public safety.
On Dec. 3 two metal detectors and a pair of X-ray machines went online, requiring those entering the courthouse to spend a few minutes waiting in a security checkpoint line.
"Our mission is to ensure the safety of the public," said Brent Weaver, spokesperson for the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, in a Jan. 7 phone interview.
When asked how the public was responding the new checkpoint, Weaver said that questionnaires were being handed out to courthouse entrants and for the most part the feedback had been very positive.
On Jan. 6, the Southeast Texas Record interviewed around two dozen Jefferson County residents who had just finished passing through the check point. The majority of their reactions were in sync with Weaver's findings, as most residents said the check point was a necessary inconvenience.
Several residents said it reminded them of going to the airport. One colorful resident, who comes to the courthouse on a daily basis, said the experience was a "pain in the rear but necessary."
Only one area resident said the system was a waste of taxpayer money.
Weaver said a committee of elected officials formed to study the new security system has gathered input from the public to improve the system.
Weaver said they have already implemented one member of the public's suggestion by collapsing the courthouse's entry doors, allowing more people to enter at once.
"We have never done this before," Weaver said. "We may have to tweak (the system) here and there … but this is not something we just jumped into."
In August 2007, Jefferson County Commissioners approved a three-phase security courthouse plan, budgeting around $235,000 for the security-overhaul project.
Weaver could not say if the new security measures were expected to stay within budget. However, he did say most of the people running the checkpoint are retired police officers, which helps to keep costs low.