Security Upgrades Yield Results at Marshall County Courthouse in Moundsville
MOUNDSVILLE — Security officers have stopped more than 700 weapons — and 40 pistols specifically — from entering the Marshall County Courthouse since new security measures were rolled out in July.
Marshall County Sheriff Kevin Cecil, who designed the program, said security officers also discovered drugs that led to one arrest. The new security measures were designed to protect areas where the security was not as tight before, he said.
Meanwhile, the program appears to be working, Cecil said.
“Some (of the weapons) are concealed carry,” he said. “Some are open carry. If they have a firearm, and they don’t take it back to their vehicle, we seize it.
“Generally, they’ll see the metal detector, they turn around and take care of the problem themselves. It’s doing a fabulous job.”
Locked doors and a metal detector may be the most visible recent changes to security in Marshall County’s courthouse, but they’re just part of a larger overhaul to security on court grounds.
Cecil said security concerns earlier in the year led to the decision to improve security. While the courtroom on the second floor of the courthouse and the county magistrate court already had security guards and metal detectors in place, Cecil said open access on the first floor and in basement caused concern.
Betsy Frohnapfel, county administrator, said she did not have on-hand information about how much the program is costing the county.
“We had some instances where firearms were brought in, where people were charged with assaults, things like that,” he said. “The courts would take place on the second floor, those people would leave, and out front — whether it be domestic, family violence — and they were occurring outside the second floor, and made the courthouse grounds unsafe.”
One notable instance, Cecil recalled, was when a felon prohibited from possessing a firearm walked into his office and placed his gun on the desk. At the time, Cecil’s office was inside the courthouse. It has since been moved to the Public Safety Building across the street.
As part of its new security plan, the county also wanted to protect the county tax office, where large amounts of money change hands.
“The tax office handles a lot of money, and there was no security,” he said. “That was always a big concern. … I was in and out all the time, I wasn’t always there. On the first floor, it was just the sheriff.
“When a convicted felon brings a gun in and puts it on the desk of the sheriff, that moves things a little bit,” Cecil said.
During the past few weeks, court security officers also began carrying handguns. Cecil said they also have less lethal means to keep the peace.
“The idea behind the firearms is that we want to limit or lower our liability,” he said. “We want control over what we carry, when we carry and the qualifications, and all the training involved. We put them through classes, and we’re setting up training on civil rights and security detail-type training. We have a less-lethal training class. We’re continuously setting up training for our court security staff, and our deputies will supplement them as well.”
The program employs a mixture of 11 part-time and full-time security officers. One sheriff’s deputy also monitors and assists courtroom security full-time.