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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Cabell Co. Courthouse Security Cameras Haven't Worked For 6 Months

At Least Ten Malfunctioning Cameras And Poor Lighting Pose High Security Risk? by Jack Swint 

On January 20, 2011 Cabell County Commissioners advertised for bids to do “A complete CCTV camera system upgrade at the Cabell County Courthouse and old County Jail.” The project requirements consisted of a full system upgrade of the current cameras in the courthouse area along with 7 additional new ones to monitor “dead spots” and high security areas. The bid also called for 8 new cameras for the jail.

The Commissioners office says that the bid was awarded to McDaniel Electric Company in Huntington WV for $43,830 and that the equipment was reportedly purchased through Electronic Specialty Company in Dunbar WV. The work was completed in or about August 2011.

As of this writing, none of the 7 new security cameras installed for the Courthouse have worked properly since September 2011. (2 weeks after installation) And 3 older cameras that didn’t work at the time of the upgrade were supposed to have been repaired but weren’t. It’s not known if the 8 cameras installed in the old jail area are operational.

Why are these security cameras malfunctioning? Our source with the county tells us that it’s a “system glitch” that has gone on now for 6 months and the commission and Sheriff are all aware of it. In fact, Electronic Specialty Company worked on the system in the last few days but has yet to fix the problem. “These cameras are strategically placed where they are for security reasons, but they do not work”

We verified 2 cameras that are suppose to be covering entrance areas of the building that haven’t worked for many months now. One is located at the top of the ramp that leads to the basement entrance. It points down the sidewalk toward 7th street so courthouse security can see people before they get to the ramp. The second is located at the building entrance at 8th street by the break room where county employees enter the courthouse.

Eight others not working are positioned in security areas that we elected not to identify because of their coverage area. The whole idea of having security cameras is to ensure the safe, secure and peaceful environment in the courthouse complex for the public, court house staff and security personnel.

Another major concern brought up is the poor lighting at night on the entire county property. One example is the outside light pole near the entrance downstairs to magistrate court that was damaged two years ago when a car drove across the grass and struck it. As of this writing, it hasn’t been fixed either. “Anyone coming to that court after dark, like a lone female seeking a protection order, is taking a chance because you never know who could be lurking around in the dark.”

There is also only one streetlight working near the jail, and walkways encircling the entire block are poorly lit.

According to our inside source, the security personnel have routinely requested the cameras be fixed and other improved security measures that include better lighting on the grounds and more security manpower on weekends. At this time there are only two officers after 4:30pm Monday-Friday and one on the weekends. And without all cameras working properly, not only increases their physical work surveillance, but safety too.

Which brings up another concern. Ever since the Huntington Police Department went to digital radio communications trunking, the County Courthouse Marshalls cannot talk with them. The sheriff reportedly promised them new radios and new tasers but they have yet to receive them. During the day, deputies working as bailiffs are inside the courthouse for help, but at night there is no help available except calling 911 because of the outdated radios. “At night and on weekends, Deputies are out patrolling in the county areas, HPD can answer an emergency call for help in minutes.”

Whose responsibility is it to ensure the safe and secure areas of the courthouse? According to W.Va.Code § 7-3-2 (1989), “The county commission shall keep the courthouse, jail and other offices in constant and adequate repair, and supplied with the necessary heat, light, furniture, record books, and janitor service ... and other things as shall be necessary.”

The county employees 15 part-time courthouse marshals to provide security details throughout the court complex and to protect the entire judicial process. Part of their job duties also includes securing the safety of courthouse employees as well as ensuring the publics wellbeing while on county property. Over the past 10 years there has been debate between the county commission and sheriff as to who oversees the County Marshalls day to day duties.

In 2011 they were once again switched from the authority of the commission back to the sheriff.

In Closing

What “system glitch” is acceptable enough to deny security camera coverage to areas that remote and constant monitoring was deemed necessary for security reasons? They are there for a reason…. According to the county commission, the work was paid for.  Also, there is reported to be monies available by both the state and federal government for courthouse security in and around the property. Which includes lighting and security.

**Update** As of April 5, 2012 all of the cameras are now working. Two of the older ones were replaced with new cameras and the outside light by the magistrate court entrance was fixed.**

End Of Story...

Jack Swint-Publisher
West Virginia News
E-Mail: WestVirginiaNews@gmail.com
Website: http://wvnewsonline.com/
Blog: http://westvirginianews.blogspot.com/
Twitter: @WVNewsOnline


Bid For Camera Upgrade And Equipment

Related Newspaper Article (Huntington News)

Related Newspaper Articles (Herald Dispatch)

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