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Debate about courthouse security continues

Local - 4/5/2013 8:46 PM by Rebecca Turco
FAYETTEVILLE - In the days following Sheriff Eugene Crum's murder near the Mingo County Courthouse, some are wondering whether courthouse security in general needs to be amped up.

Each county decides which security measures should be taken. The Fayette County Circuit and Magistrate Courthouses have video cameras throughout the buildings but do not have security officers present at each entrance.

Chief Judge John Hatcher of the Fayette County Circuit Court believes more precautions should be taken. "We're living in a world that is increasingly more violent and more dangerous," Hatcher said. "It's not a matter of if something happens, it is when it happens, tragically. But by then it'll be too late."

Currently, there is a metal detector outside the circuit courtroom and two metal detectors used as needed in the magistrate courthouse. Security cameras are also located throughout each building.

Matthew Wender, president of the Fayette County Commission, said he prefers an "open-door" policy to the courthouses. He believes if security personnel were checking people at each of the entrances, it would deter some people from utilizing the services in the public building. "I think that any efforts to limit access to a courthouse, or a public building like a courthouse, is wrong," Wender said. "I think it sends the wrong message as far as government being a government of the people and by the people."

But Fayette County Sheriff Steve Kessler said he believes both an officer and a metal detector should be at each buildings' entrances to prevent potential threats from entering. "We're not stopping anybody from coming in the courthouse," Kessler explained. "We just don't want somebody to come in, armed with firearms or anything that would cause any damage to the courthouse or hurt anybody."

With the economy the way it is and differing opinions on the subject, Kessler said it could be years before changes - if any - are made.

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