By Kent Gray
Triplicate staff writer
For those who find slow-moving lines irritating and security practices intrusive, be prepared for more of the same. Increased security measures being implemented across the country in the wake of Septembers terrorist attacks are now being felt locally.
But in Del Norte County, the increased security precautions are not only in response to the possibility of terrorist attacks.
At the county courthouse, for instance, security issues involve providing safety for court staff and the public in the sometimes- heated courtroom hearings, from prison murder trials to child custody cases.
We have put in for additional funding for security, said Linda Millspaugh, the Del Norte County clerk executive officer. What weve had approved is for a video camera, a card key system, hand held radios and metal detector wands.
Currently, the walk-through metal detector at the courthouse is only used when highly volatile trials are in progress, according to Bailiff Mike Shine.
Right now, we use it for the more serious Pelican Bay trials, Shine said. We make sure people empty their pockets before they pass through it to see if they have pocket knives on them. Its pretty sensitive.
But during a test yesterday, to see if the device could detect a rather formidable plastic knife, the sensitivity needed some adjusting because metal knives were capable of passing undetected through the machine.
It needs some adjusting, but that is usually done about once a month, Shine said. Chief Deputy District Attorney Mike Riese said the last time the device was used was six weeks ago during a child molestation case.
The plastic knife, advertised in several outdoorsman magazines as being black, silent, and totally undetectable, is sharp and durable enough to pose a threat.
As you can see its a pretty effective weapon, Riese said, who purchased the Zylon-fiber weapon through a magazine for around $40. I dont see how a metal detector could pick this up. Not a flicker was seen on the metal detector light meter when District Attorney Robert Drossel passed through it, carrying the knife in his pocket.
Theres no question in my mind that safety is a concern here for both court staff and the public, said Drossel.
According to Millspaugh, if funding problems can be resolved the metal detector will be in greater use at the courthouse and a security guard will be posted adjacent to it.
Across town, and in direct relation to the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington D.C. on Sept. 11, the Del Norte County Airport has already implemented stringent security measures.
The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) has mandated at every airport in the country that there will be no parking or unattended vehicles within 300 feet in front of the terminal, said airport manager Teresa Kekry in regard to securing airports from possible car bomb threats. I know a lot of people are upset by this but they need to know this is not a county thing. The FAA said you either do this or they will close the airport.
Kekry said the only way an airport can sidestep this is by adding a blast wall in front of the terminal and by physically inspecting every vehicle parked within 300 feet. Even with this, Kekry said the FAA would only allow cars to park somewhat closer not the full 300 feet.
An FAA inspector was here last week making certain Crescent City is in compliance with the new federal laws, Kekry said.
Carry-on baggage is now inspected by hand and no sharp instruments of any kind will be allowed in the passenger cabin, according to new FAA regulations. Plus, passengers with baggage must now check in 90 minutes before boarding a flight, Kekry said.
Crescent City will also be installing a new electronic tracing device, which can detect 180th of a milligram of any kind of explosive, said Kekry. The device is already there, we just need to hook it up.
In budget discussions yesterday in front of the county Board of Supervisors, Sheriff Jim Maready said costs for airport security may amount to as much as $260,000. The county is currently studying a plan to use a private security force, augmented by deputies. While the lions share of the costs may be funded by the FAA, and its still not clear just what the costs will be, theres no doubt increased airport security will have a growing impact on Del Norte Countys law enforcement budget.
Its a severe draw on our resources to man that area, Maready said. While the scales are currently tilting toward security and safety and away from personal privacy across America, some cautions were addressed in the Senate on Monday by the American Civil Liberties Union, according to the organizations website. "Congress must take every reasonable step it can to protect our nation against future attacks," said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU's Washington National Office. "At the same time, the people's representatives must also work to minimize the legislation's impact on our free society."