Is the Hancock County Courthouse secure?

BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - For the fourth time in less than two years, a Hancock County Grand Jury has recommended officials step up security measures at the Hancock County Courthouse on Main Street in Bay St. Louis. It recommended a thorough evaluation of the security needs there.

An armed sheriff's deputy with a hand held metal detector is the front line of defense against anyone wanting to harm someone inside of the Hancock County Courthouse. But a Hancock County Grand Jury said surveillance cameras and walk through metal detectors are needed.

"It probably would make them feel better to see that, but would it really protect anybody? I doubt it," said Rita Blaize Watson, the sheriff's deputy assigned to protect the courthouse.

She points to a courthouse shooting in Delaware Monday where an angry gunman shot and killed two women in the lobby area before ever going through a walk-through metal detector.

"The metal detectors would not have helped with that. I think it just gives some people a sense of security," said Watson.

"If people want to do it bad enough, they're going to find a way," explained Supervisor Lisa Cowand. "There's nothing that's going to stop them from being out on the courthouse steps waiting for someone to come out of that building. They're going to have to exit that building sooner or later, let's face it. But we want to make sure once they're inside that building, everyone is as secured as we can possibly be."

Cowand is President of the Hancock County Board of Supervisors. She said after the first grand jury's call for more security measures, county leaders took their advice.

"We did add a deputy their that does use the wand as well as a bailiffs every courtroom when court is in session. But we are going to look at it one again," said Cowand.

Cowand says the walk through detectors would need to be placed at three courthouse entrances and manned. A costly endeavor for sure.

"If need be and the judges are not feeling secure enough and they want the walk through monitors, it's just something we're going to have to bite the bullet and do. We surely don't want to endanger anyone's life."

As for courthouse employees, most say they feel safe with the security measures already in place, but say in today's society you can never have too much protection.

County leaders promise to discuss courthouse security at their next board meeting.

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