Courthouse visitors getting used to security screen

SANDUSKY Security screening is slowly becoming routine for Erie County Courthouse visitors.
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010



Security screening is slowly becoming routine for Erie County Courthouse visitors.

In February, four part-time screeners began working an X-ray machine and walk-through metal detector to increase security efforts.

When a person sets off the alarm, a screener uses a hand wand to pinpoint where exactly the metal is.

"Generally it's an all-around screening procedure for all metal and all metal objects," said screener Todd M. Koch. "Anything that's going to make the metal detector go off. Anything that's sharp and could be used for stabbing, poking."

Knives, razor blades and forks have been confiscated during the past months. But now repeat visitors are learning what items they can't bring inside the courthouse and how the screening procedures work, making the process more streamlined.

"Word is getting around with different people coming in," screener Tim Dee said.

Daily visitors are getting accustomed to the process.

"It's nice that they have it," said Tapatha Knupke, who comes to the courthouse regularly for her work at a title company. "Even though they are not sheriff's deputies, it does make a difference."

Others agree.

"This is one of the best things they've got," said Danny Miller, of Sandusky. "It does feel (more) comfortable."

In addition to the screeners, who are not bonded officers, a handful of deputies still work courthouse security and transport inmates. The screeners were selected from a pool of several dozen with a security background.

"Everybody that works as a screener has had law enforcement or civil service or military background," Dee said.

Most people who have brought contraband into the courthouse have done so unintentionally, said Family Court Judge DeLamatre, who headed up hiring the screeners and implementing the process.

"(The items are) probably things people don't think too much about (and) would have with them," he said. "Pretty much run-of-the-mill stuff."

A few spring-blade knives and switchblades have been confiscated, DeLamatre said.

"The items probably of most concern I've heard abut are the straight-blade razors," he added.

While there has been some troubleshooting with the 8-year-old machinery used for screening, those hiccups are being hammered out, DeLamatre said.

"Ultimately it started to freeze up," he said.

During that time patrons had their purses and bags checked by hand.

In June the screeners, along with deputies, will go through additional training provided by the Ohio Supreme Court, DeLamatre said.

"They have helped many courts in the state develop their policies and procedures," he said.

The training will be a free service.

"It's going pretty smoothly," he added. "The issues really have been more just getting used to getting people throughout the process, just kind of the practicalities of doing it."

In addition more security drills will be rehearsed, DeLamatre said.

"Better than 90 percent of those that have come through have said thank you," Koch said. "They're glad we're here."

Items encountered by security screeners between February 21 - April 30

Pocket knife 134

Other types of knives 45

Box cutter 29

Can or bottle of pepper spray 10

Scissors 7

Afro or hair pick 7

Multi-tool device 5

Leatherman tool 3

Screwdriver 3

Fork 3

Razor blade or razor knife 2

Knitting needles 2

Paint scraper 1

Self-defense device 1

Nail clippers 1

Source: Log kept by screeners