Senators work to improve security -, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Senators work to improve security

June 14, 2005
< /STRONG> < /P> < P> < STRONG> Moultrie-- Security at government buildings is a top concern for State leaders. A Senate Committee is holding hearings around Georgia to find ways to keep you safer at county and state buildings.

On March 11th, four people were killed after an inmate took a deputy's gun at the Fulton County courthouse and went on a shooting spree. The shooting was a wake-up call. Security at some public buildings may not be what it should.

Tuesday was hearing number one of three that the Security for State and County Buildings Study Committee will hold to discuss possible security improvements. But one question appeared over and over again-- where will the money for those improvements come from?

Many courthouses in the state of Georgia share a common theme: they're old. Most were built with comfort and convenience in mind, not security.

"Our courthouses are old, and they were a focal point back in the early 1900's, and security wasn't a problem. Those were the days we slept with our doors open and our windows up, but times have changed," says Tift County Sheriff Gary Vowell.

And just as times have changed, the need for security has changed as well. Senator Joseph Carter says, "One of the things we want to make sure happens is that this issue stays on the front burner. What we want to do is hear from the people who work in these environments."

Many courthouses, like the one in Colquitt County, have more than one entrance, and few metal detectors or security guards. And when they are placed at the courthouses, they are only done so on days when court is in session, leaving employees at risk any other time.

But you can't hire more employees without one very valuable asset. Dougherty County Sheriff Jamil Saba says, "It all pertains to money. You need money to be able to do everything that you need to do."

Having equipment like this in place isn't enough. There must be someone available and trained to use it, training and manpower that takes money. Money most counties say, they simply don't have.

And is too much money needed for a problem that may not always exist? Colquitt County Commission Chairman Max Hancock says, "I just don't believe the danger justifies the costs, I think that we are reacting to an isolated situation and as I told them I believe a selected handful of thugs can shut down our whole country."

But without proper security, just one person can shut down a life-- something no one can put a price tag on.

Courthouses are the main concern, but not the only one. Senators and sheriffs want to make sure all prosecutors, public defenders, and other workers in high risk jobs are protected. Two more hearings are scheduled, one in Macon, another in North Georgia.