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Focus turns to security

After the terrorist attacks that rocked our nation, local law enforcement agencies and public buildings have beefed up security, even though Lawrence County isn't likely to be a target of attacks.

"I think everyone is on more of an alert," Lawrence County Sheriff Tim Sexton said. "We all have concerns. Can it happen again? Certainly.

"We have to do our best with the equipment, manpower and resources we have to be prepared for anything that occurs within our boundaries."

Some changes the sheriff's department has seen include the creation of Web sites to provide information to law enforcement agencies, seminars on how to handle terrorism and more information sharing between the different law enforcement agencies.

"There have been permanent changes in society, not just law enforcement," he said. "Terrorism (awareness) is now just a new part of law enforcement."

As a result of Homeland Security funding, the sheriff's department will receive some personal protection gear for the officers.

Although similar to some gear they have, they expect enough for every officer.

The equipment will be used primarily in case of chemical or bio-terrorism threats.

"People began to realize what law enforcement officers go through on a daily basis," Sexton said. "It is a very tough job with few thank-yous."

Ironton Police Chief Bill Garland said that the attention and media has quieted down, but law enforcement probably will never be the same.

"As officers, we have to look at everything and be prepared," he said. "The anthrax scare was totally different for us."

While responding to every potential threat, the police department has seen a higher level of public cooperation during the last year, he said.

"We try to tell people that without eyes and ears of the people we can't do our job," Garland said. "We encourage people to call about anything that is suspicious.

"We were very lucky, but the scare was there. A lot of people were terrified."

Garland said they do not take anything for granted now and check out

everything.

Security at the Ironton City Center has been stepped up and the

building is checked thoroughly twice a night.

Ironton Fire Chief Tom Runyon agrees that the biggest changes to his

department have been in the area of awareness and education. They have more things to prepare for and attempt to educate the firefighters as well as possible for any potential threat.

Of all the entities affected, the Postal Service has probably seen the most

changes because the attack and the Anthrax scares that followed.

"The whole world was changing," Kathleen Patrick, Postmaster at the

Ironton Post office, said.

"We are at a heightened security level in all ways," Patrick said. "We

issue new security methods every day. It is an ongoing thing to make sure the customers' mail is safe."

Although unable to reveal details, new logs, screening methods and

educational tools have been implemented. One new regulation requires all

employees to wear ID badges so they can be easily identified, she said.

"Being a postal employee this last year hasn't been easy," she said. "We didn't take any threats lightly. We investigated everything that was brought to our attention."

The Lawrence County Courthouse hasn't seen drastic changes because they have had tight security for the last seven years, said Jack Dennin, chief constable for the Lawrence County Common Pleas Court.

"We were ahead of the game here," he said. "Our officers are well-trained on metal detectors and the X-ray machines. Nothing is going to get through."

The only real changes have been that they turned up the sensitivity of the metal detectors and the officers scan closer, he said. Although they have a display case full of weapons confiscated, they haven't found a gun in more than two years, Dennin said.

"I feel comfortable working here because I know everyone is screened," Carl Bowen, chief probation officers, said.

Sgt. Mark Majher said the main reason the courthouse is so safe is because the employees are well-trained and experienced. Michael Caldwell/The Ironton Tribune