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Stark County Courthouse gets 2 new metal detectors

Press Photo by Katherine Lymn Before preliminary hearings Monday, Stark County Deputy Larry Johnson discusses the new metal detectors at the courthouse.

The Stark County Courthouse now has metal detectors for every courtroom. Soon it’ll have them at the main entrances.

The county added a detector for the third-floor and basement courtrooms this week with energy impact money. Down the road, those may become unnecessary as detectors are added to the main entrances of the courthouse.

“Because of concerns, we are studying the feasibility of getting the courthouse more security, simply because of the incidents of violence that have occurred in public areas in the past number of years,” said Tom Henning, the Stark County state’s attorney and the chair of a committee looking into increased safety precautions at the courthouse.

Especially with the increased number of drug-related cases — use of heroin and methamphetamine has grown with the oil boom — Henning said the county has concerns over angry citizens putting others at the courthouse in danger with knives or guns.

Ultimately, the safety committee, which also includes county planner Steve Josephson, Sheriff Clarence Tuhy and commission board member Pete Kuntz, will implement metal detectors at the main entrances of the courthouse.

What’s left to decide, with the help of an engineering firm and the state, is just how to implement those, and which equipment to use.

“It’s just a question of trying to avoid having some deranged person” do harm to anyone in court, Henning said, saying the danger could be anything from a tax protester to an upset criminal defendant.

Without walk-through detectors, courtroom deputies were left to manually wand down people before they enter court.

“This way it’ll be a lot more convenient,” Tuhy said.

The county already had a metal detector for the largest courtroom, on the second floor.

Stark County Deputy Larry Johnson was one of the first to break in the third-floor courtroom’s metal detector for hearings Monday afternoon.

He said while it helps, if someone has metal on them he still has to wand them down for more specificity, which deputies used to do for everyone.

The detectors, at least, show whether metal was sensed at the upper, middle or lower part of a person’s body.

“The nice part of this is the zones — you got the upper zone, the middle and the lower to where when they walk through there you know exactly where it’s coming from,” Tuhy said.

Funding for the two detectors, plus some smaller investments like more wands, totaled about $12,000 and came from an energy impact grant with a 10 percent match from the county, Tuhy said.

“We’re just trying to provide safety for the courts system,” county commission chair Russ Hoff said.

The detectors are portable and easy to operate, Tuhy said. “You press one button to turn them on and a second button to turn them off and you’re done.”