Hillsborough Sheriff's Office presents plan for Courthouse security
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08/31/09 Mitch E. Perry
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In early August, Hillsborough County security officials were embarrassed after a woman was identified as bringing in a gun to the County Courthouse, and that it took nearly three hours for Courthouse security to notify the Sheriff’s Office.

Though it later was determined that the 'gun' was actually a lighter that resembled a gun, the incident continues to have repercussions nearly a month later.

Today Colonel Jim Previteria with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Department detailed a plan before the Hillsborough County Public Safety Commission on having the Sheriff’s Department take over Courthouse Security. He began by saying that the County’s proposal to cut the funding for Courthouse security by virtually a million dollars wouldn’t work if they also wanted a new, better security force.

Among the proposed changes would include replacing the current county security officers with unarmed contract officers to operate x-ray machines and magnatometers or hand wands.

The new plan also calls for 16 contracted unarmed screeners and 8 armed screeners. They would use 10 community service officers to do things like monitor cameras and operate doors.

And for the first time, the proposal calls for a law enforcement presence in the County Courthouse. Preveteria laid out the details for the security officers to be mid-point employees, meaning those officials would be experienced officers earning at the mid level of their salary range.

The incident involving the snuck-in would-be gun prompted County Commissioners to have the Sheriff’s Department look into providing security at the Courthouse. County Sheriff Department spokesman Jim Previteria says that many Hillsborough Judges are in favor of a new security plan.

Commissioner Rose Ferlita expressed concern that the new plan would lengthen the time it takes for people to enter into the courthouse. But Preveteria said it would result in less time waiting.

County Commissioner Al Higgenbotham, the Chair of the Safety Committee, said it’s a goal that the board feels to try to consolidate services and get the most out of County departments with less financial resources.

And so Higgenbotham says the new security plan for the Hillsborough County Courthouse will come before the rest of the County Commissioners at their next regularly scheduled meeting this Wednesday.

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