Courthouse security plans change

LAWRENCEVILLE - Plans to build a security portico at the entrance to the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center have been scrapped, as officials plan to focus on the rear of the 500,000-square-foot courthouse.

County Administrator Jock Connell told judges last week that the plan for a security hut to bring screenings to the front of the center has been ruled out, two years after a deadly rampage at the Fulton County Courthouse spurred beefed up protection plans.

Sheriff Butch Conway said he approved the change when design drawings for the portico showed costs of close to $1 million.

"I really felt the cost for the front of the building wasn't justified," he said. "We could do more with less money by securing the back. ... That was a bigger priority."

Connell said a road directly behind the building with loading docks was more of a security threat. And Conway added that deputies were better able to handle screenings at the entrance than was originally expected.

After the fatal shootings in Fulton County's courthouse in March 2005, two metal detectors were placed at the front public entrance of the justice center and one at the rear employee entrance. Previously, people were only screened when they entered the judicial half of the building.

Conway also closed Langley Drive in front of the building and hired 14 additional deputies to increase security.

"We found we can do the job in the lobby" instead of with an exterior atrium, Conway said. "It's worked out really well. It's really worked out better than we expected with less disturbance than we thought it would take."