12/06/09 — Security tightened in clerk's office

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Security tightened in clerk's office

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on December 6, 2009 1:50 AM

Security for the Wayne County Clerk of Courts office tightened this week, the result of a security study that raised concerns about unchecked access to the facility.

After years of unlocked doors and almost completely unrestricted entry to the court clerks' office, access now requires an electronic badge common to other secure doors in the Wayne County Courthouse.

Since Dec. 2, the wooden "staff" doors have been locked. Also, a glass door adjacent to the clerks' window is now equipped with an electronic card reader.

Wayne County Director of Emergency Services Mel Powers said installing the card reader was a request that came directly from Wayne County Clerk of Courts Pam Minshew, and his office quickly complied.

Mrs. Minshew said she had always been concerned about ease of entry to the room, home to both her staff and the paper documentation of criminal and civil case files.

"My office has been open for anybody to walk in, and it's not really safe for the ladies that work in here, for security reasons," she said.

However, moving toward a tighter security protocol had been difficult in the past, because clerks in the Estates and Special Proceedings shared the office, Mrs. Minshew said.

The nature of estate and special proceedings cases meant the public needed easy access to workers in that department, she said.

"I had my estates people in here, and they really need to have people at their desks," Mrs. Minshew said. "They have to let them (the public) come in, in order to work with the families."

Now, a relocation of those staff members has helped to address the problem, the court clerk said.

The clerks who work in the Estates and Special Proceedings Division have since been moved up one story, to a third-floor room that formerly housed the county's Planning and Inspections departments.

Mrs. Minshew said the changes immediately made her feel better about security in her office.

"Now I can (have a security profile for my office) like the Sheriff's Office, the DA's office and just have that one door that people come through, so we know who's coming in and out.

"Anybody who's with the court system will be able to swipe the card can come in, and anybody that we let in, can come in," Mrs. Minshew said.

In the past, clerks have looked warily at some visitors to the office, she said.

"With those two doors open, anybody could walk in at any time, and sometimes people would come in that we'd never seen before. The girls would have to keep their eyes open, because we didn't know them," Mrs. Minshew said.

Although security will be tighter, the clerk of courts wanted to assure court visitors, attorneys and others that they will still have access to her office.

"I'm not cutting the public out -- the public will still be waiting on that counter, just like always," Mrs. Minshew said. "I hate if it's any inconvenience to anybody, but for the safety of the ladies in the clerks' office, I just felt like I had to do it."