Courthouse adds security screening

The Creek County Courthouse now has only one point of ingress and egress for the general public. The east door is now an emergency exit only, and anyone who does not have the proper credentials must go through a screening unit which consists of a walk-through metal detector, a hand-held scanner, and an x-ray baggage scanner.

According to Undersheriff and tech guru Joe Thompson: “The Sheriff has made every effort to try to increase the safety of the judicial branch and all the victims and public who come in here to do business with the Court. All the public have to enter and exit through the North door of the Courthouse now.”

Either side of the walk-through metal detector can be operated by a sheriff’s deputy. The unit will alert deputies if there is metal detected on a person and will indicate the general area of the body where the metal has been detected. There are at least two deputies, meaning the screening.

A computer screen on the entrance side of the walk-through device which will show where on the body to search, and on the exit side, LEDs illuminate to show which region of the body should be checked. Undersheriff Thompson says the machine will detect all metals.

The following is a brief explanation of the operation of a typical baggage scanner:

The scanner generates X-rays with a special vacuum tube that converts electrical input power into X-rays. This tube is surrounded by a lead lining in which there is a narrow one-centimeter-wide gap through which the X-rays are guided into the tunnel. The conveyor belt pulls each item through the X-ray beam, and a detector, located on the opposite side of the tunnel, measures the amount of radiation that has penetrated the item being scanned. Substances that are dense will absorb the most radiation, thus blocking much of the X-rays. 

A computer then forms a nearly real-time image of the items that corresponds with the amount of radiation that passes through the scanned item.

Different materials will show up as different colors in the image displayed on a computer monitor. Organic matter, such as plastic and textiles, wood, and water are colored orange. Inorganic matter, such as metals, will be displayed as blue. 

In organic and organic substances, that overlap will appear green. Other substances that are shown in green include bones, salt, and glass.

The more dense an item being scanned is, the darker the image on the screen. Substances that are so dense that the radiation will not pass through will appear black.

The scanner being used at the courthouse will allow a top view and a side view to better observe what is going through the machine.

Pointing to the computer monitor attached to the baggage scanner, Thompson said. “It is highlighting an image for him, and saying, hey this is something you may want to look at simply because it may be getting the penetration it wants.”

Thompson said that the computer will archive images and keep a count of items scanned.

“If this machine is running, it is actually counting how many bags are being scanned, what items are being scanned, so they can go back through and review to identify anything they want to look at,” said Thompson.

The undersheriff also stated that the manufacturer has provided training to the deputies who will operate the machine.

For those worried about radiation, The undersheriff says that the manufacturer states there is no danger to users and those operating the machine.

As a matter of fact, a typical baggage scanner emits approximately one micro sievert, which is the amount of background radiation you would receive during a one-hour plane flight at an altitude of ten kilometers. Another way to measure it would be one-tenth the dose from a dental X-ray. Film with a high ASA number may be damaged, but ordinary film will not be harmed.

Thompson also states that the Sheriff’s Department has formulated emergency plans for inclement weather and other situations and is in the process of developing more plans.

“We have voiced concerns with respect to 30 or 40 people outside this door, and you have weather going, how are we going to get them in? We still plan to do it safely and as efficiently as possible.”

Thompson concluded the interview by saying people feel safer with the new security measures at the Courthouse.