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Comanche Co. Courthouse Beefing Up Security

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COMANCHE CO., Okla_ Some big changes are coming to the Comanche County Courthouse; officials are beefing up security.

Commissioner Johnny Owens said they're going to upgrade the security camera backup system and restrict access to certain entryways to the building. He said he's working closely with the sheriff's department on other ways to make the courthouse less vulnerable.

He said although security increased after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, it has since become too relaxed. He said these changes are just the first. It's a busy place, with hundreds of people come and go to the Comanche County Courthouse every day.

"It's a place where a lot of stuff happens," Sheriff Kenny Stradley said. "People get divorces; people come here because some crimes have been committed against them. So, anything can happen here."

That's why Central District Commissioner Johnny Owens, who oversees the courthouse, is making some major changes. He's starting with the main employee entrance on the first floor.

"It used to be from 7:30 in the morning until about 5:30," Owens said. "Just anybody could walk in and out of that first floor situation by where the sheriff's department is. They'll either use a code or a swipe a card to get in there. That's the first step in keeping some of these doors locked."

Owens said he's also upgrading the courthouse's security camera system, which currently only keeps footage for about two weeks. He said the new system will be able to back up footage for six months.

"It's going to be a plus for us if something happens here in the courthouse," Owens said. "We need to know basically, what did happen. Instead of someone saying what happened, we can go back to that date."

Also under consideration: leaving only two of the four entrances to the courthouse open. That way, sheriff's deputies can monitor who's going in and out more closely. These residents say the changes are long overdue.

"I think it's worth it," resident Johnny Pryor said, "Because you never know who could be packing a gun in here. There's so much violence and gangs these days."

"You hear history after history, stories after stories of men, women, boys and girls who have come to court and were killed, who were murdered because whoever the assailant was didn't want them to testify, or was leaving them or what have you," resident Charisse Charley said. "So yes, it's always good."

There are also signs posted through out the courthouse that lets people know that once they enter the building, their bags or brief cases can legally be searched.

Owens said that the money to pay for these changes will come out of the county's existing budget. He would like to see more money set aside in the future for even more security upgrades.

"To me, there's really been no money set aside for maintenance," Owens said. "As far as building type maintenance, we need to be more conscious about that, because this building is now 40 years old. It's had a lot of band-aids on it. We're going to quit putting band-aids on it and fix the situation."

Owens said the changes should start soon.

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