Stephens County Courthouse security system gets upgrade

Stephens County_The focus of Homeland Security isn't only on airports and border protection, it's also about keeping state, county, and city employees and visitors safe.  In Stephens County, the courthouse's existing security is outdated, so the County Commissioner has decided that it's "out with the old and in with the new."  They will be completely revamping surveillance with new cameras and sensors in and around the courthouse.  The new system will meet standards set by the Department of Homeland Security.

The main focus of the security overhaul is to increase video surveillance.  They're in the process of changing to new cameras which will record video to a computer hard drive.  Chief Sheriff's Deputy Bob Hill says they usually watch cameras closer during court cases, and the new cameras will make it easier to monitor multiple areas of the building.  They also will add motion detectors to the security revamp.  "If there's motion in a place where there's not supposed to be motion, well, this will alert us and we can go see what the motion is," says Hill.  "If we thought we were going to have something, we'd start recording," he says.  "Then we'd have all these VCR tapes stored up, and we'd have to go back and eventually erase them and start over."

CDs and DVDs store a lot more video than a VHS tape, and they take up a lot less storage space.  Since the recording system is computer based, cameras can keep rolling.  "If we have an altercation in the jail, and we don't find out about it immediately, if an inmate assaults another inmate, well, we can recall that now," says Hill.

In the past, Hill says the only way they were able to record an inmate fight was if they could somehow anticipate it.  "It just makes life a lot simpler over there," he says.  "We can record events if something happened last week, and we just now find out about it.  Then we can go review that."

Stephens County Commissioners also are planning other improvements to the old jail.  It doesn't meet state code because of a lack of natural light, and they're considering using special skylights to bring them up to state specifications.

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