Constables monitor traffic at courthouse

Published 9:32 am Thursday, January 19, 2012

More than 2,000 items collected at entrances

In 2011, more than 200,000 people walked through the Lawrence County Courthouse’s two entrances.

And so did more than 1,800 knives.

Thanks to the seven diligent courthouse constables and their metal detectors and wands, not one knife or other unauthorized item got past security.

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The metal detectors have been in place since 1996, said Constable Ralph Peters. The security measures were a recommendation by the Ohio Supreme Court.

Peters himself has been a constable for 12 years.

During that time, Peters said, he’s seen quite a bit, but has never seen anyone try to bring a gun into the courthouse, and no unwanted item has gotten past security.

Presiding Judge Charles Cooper has the constables prepare monthly and annual reports of not only the traffic that comes through the court’s South Fourth and Fifth street entrances, but also what each person brings in with them.

Last year, thankfully, didn’t yield any firearms, but there where 1,860 pocket knives checked with security. Also checked at security were 10 pairs of scissors, two screwdrivers, 16 box cutters, three razor blades, four kubatons, 12 rounds of ammunition, 58 Leatherman tools and 13 insulin needles.

Although the court prohibits such items from going any further than the metal detectors, courthouse visitors can fill out a form and pick their item up upon leaving.

Peters said women frequently had mace or Tasers, which were also checked and returned. Those numbers totaled 49 and three, respectively.

Cooper said the constables and the metal detectors catch potential problems at the front door.

“If they get past the front doors, the Board of Elections, Veteran’s Administration, Clerk of Courts, they aren’t protected” he said. “If we can catch them at the front doors, we protect all four floors and the law library.”

Cooper also said past Lawrence County Commissioners have suggested the courthouse economize by shutting down one entrance.

“The numbers are almost equally divided,” Cooper said.

The Fourth Street entrance had 97,387 people walk through, where the Fifth Street side saw 106,909 people.

“Surly we can find some other way to economize,” he said.

The annual summary report also counts the number of inmates that are brought to the courthouse.

On Wednesdays alone, 625 male and 144 female inmates were brought in. The other weekdays saw a total of 340 male and 96 female inmates.

There were 126 arrests made at the courthouse as well. Thirty people were arrested on warrants and others were arrested for commitments, sentencing, having bond revoked or violating probation.

Peters said only about 13 were arrested for disorderly conduct or fighting in the courthouse.

As one of seven constables, Peters said that number is good, but that, “we could always use more.”