Report Reveals Benton County Security Concerns

By Jill Kasparie, Reporter

VINTON, Iowa – A new report noted concerns with the Benton County Courthouse security system.

This comes as anxieties grow across the country. Wednesday in West Virginia, someone gunned down a sheriff in a courthouse parking lot. Last month, two prosecutors in central Iowa were attacked in a courthouse hallway.

The Benton County Courthouse sits in the middle of Downtown Vinton. It's an historic building, but it's one that's received upgrades in the name of security.

"We have alarms, we have cameras, we have things of that nature," said Benton County Attorney David Thompson.

Thompson said a lot of measures have been added over the past fifteen years, but times are changing and so should the scene at the old courthouse.

"In my opinion, in this day of age, you can never have enough safety, and I really think the time has come that we need to take another look at it," Thompson said.

The grand jury agrees. It's tradition for the Benton County grand jury to tour all of the facilities and make note of any problems in a report. That report was just filed a few weeks ago.

The report suggests that the courthouse should only have one secure entrance with a scanner and armed officer. Currently, the courthouse has three open doors and a deputy on duty when there's court in session.

"We've had a couple instances where we've had to call courthouse security or an officer when they are not here," County Clerk Cindy Forsyth said.

Forsyth is among many who said they feel safe at work, but short tempers are common when it comes to the courthouse scene.

"Especially in a divorce or some type of case where they would lose their children," Forsyth said.

"We've had people that have been escorted out," Thompson said. "We've had people that have in the past who have been arrested. We've had doors slammed; we've had things of that nature. I don't think that's uncommon in the district" Thompson said.

The county attorney pointed out that intense situations don't take place that often, but security is always important because you never know when it's going to happen next.

Benton County Supervisor Terry Hertle said courthouse safety is one of the board's top priorities. The problem, he said, is they don't have the money to pay for it. The three-member board is currently working to figure out where they can find the cash for needed upgrades.
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