By Leslie Noia
OTTAWA - The Putnam County Security Committee addressed ever-changing safety concerns this week when they approved the purchase of eight security cameras to be placed outside of the courthouse.The action was taken as the committee recognized the need for heightened awareness, especially in light of recent events, knowing cameras on the outside of the building could be crucial when trying to identify someone involved in a crime.
The need for cameras in different positions surrounding the courthouse was an item discussed by the committee previously, as it is one of the easiest methods of answering the issue. Deputy Harry Berger said the estimated cost of the cameras was affordable when compared to hiring an additional guard, only about $3,000. He also pointed out the cameras would be added to the existing security system which currently runs the interior cameras. The cameras will also be backed up by a generator outside of the courthouse in the event of a power failure.
"I think that is probably a good idea. When the electricity went out last summer at the end of June, three local felons took that opportunity to break into the Honda dealership. It's that kind of thing that can happen that we need to think about," said Judge Randall Basinger.
Judge Michael Borer brought up the possibility of also placing a monitoring system in the courthouse. Of course, that might mean employing personnel to man the equipment. The committee discussed having a system set up throughout the courthouse and possibly having it feed onto the computers. One potential problem is whether or not current employees have time to monitor the system while working on other tasks. Another option brought up was having the monitoring system at the Sheriff's office. Sheriff Mike Chandler stated it could be problematic due to a response time of at least 10 minutes.
"If there are monitors here in the courthouse, the response time will be a lot quicker," said Chandler.
Some issues have been raised over the last two weeks where in several instances security was not available in the courthouse because officers were already busy on other duties.
"We talked about it in the past and I think it's time we make a decision on if we should find ways to fund an additional officer to be at the court house at all times. There's a big difference to being reactive to a situation that has already occurred to being proactive in trying to deter something. The presence of a security officer is a deterrent and is being proactive and that's what I think we should be focusing on. One person to cover three courts and the entire courthouse in my opinion isn't sufficient," said Judge Chad Niese.
The concern was not that the courts do not have enough security during scheduled court events, but for unscheduled events. "The problems come when there are unscheduled events and unfortunately security problems are not typical scheduled events," said Judge Niese.
The issue for a full time security officer was broached at the last Elected Officials meeting and Sheriff Chandler explained a full-time security officer would cost around $51,000 a year and with a vehicle an additional $5,000.
The committee did not make a decision on hiring another security officer at the meeting but agreed more security measures need to take place at the courthouse.