Prosecutors around the state have stepped up security in the wake of the shootings of the district attorney, his wife and an assistant DA in Kaufman County. Now the Walker County District Attorney's Office is taking preventative measures to keep their staff and personnel safe. Walker County District Attorney David Weeks sat down with News 3's Nicole Morten to discuss the vulnerabilities of the job.
It's a building that's nestled in the heart of Huntsville....
“We do have more inmates in this town than most states have in their state penitentiary so that's always a concern,” said Walker County Criminal District Attorney David Weeks.
Every day Weeks walks into his office with criminal cases on his mind, but for the last several months it's more than the case load that has him thinking.
“I did prison prosecution and dealt with threats from prison gangs and it's always been part of the job," Weeks said.
Weeks says the shooting deaths of the Kaufman County Prosecutors was the tipping point.
“You also get folks who have more issues than most. Montgomery County is currently prosecuting two individuals that harassed me and came to my home,” Weeks explained.
A safe home and a safe work environment are just a few of the reasons he and assistant DA Stephanie Stroud are proposing to make major changes to the 83-year-old building.
“We did a security check with the sheriff's department and after the events in Kaufmann County we accelerated the process,” said First DA Assistant Stephanie Stroud. “One of our concerns is the smallness of the area we have here for those folks to wait, but also the fact there is also a lot of glass in the front of our building and that's one of the things we are trying to eliminate is the amount of glass to make it more secure.”
Some of the safety measures include the addition of security cameras; some with night vision capabilities and authorities say they'd like to add a bullet-proof wall to the reception area.
“There are several occasions where people come to our office, very upset and most recently we had a situation with a protective order applicant and showed up at our office in quite a state of being distraught,” Stroud said. “She was followed by the person who she was seeking protection against, and we actually had an altercation in this small room that spilled over outside and required investigators to come up stairs and have law enforcement assist us. It was a very unnerving situation for our staff because they were all right here in this small area.”
Since the receptionist is the first point of contact, her surroundings will be safe-guarded and bullet-proof, not to mention the doors will be replaced with solid steel doors.
"This glass will all be removed with bullet proof glass and on a much smaller scale and this wall will be eliminated and a new solid, bullet-proof wall will be put it it's place," Stroud said. "No one can get in this building without being aware of who it is, so we'll be narrowing down the opportunities for people to just be able to get inside."
Measures that the DA hopes will keep his team safe from any disgruntled outsiders coming in with plans of their own.
The cost for the security measures will run between $50,000 and $80,000, however factor in grant money for the electronics and that amount will drop significantly.
"The security system, we're getting funds through a grant from the governor's office so the county will only be responsible for the physical changes: the wall, the doors and that sort of thing."
The proposal has been presented to commissioner’s court and is awaiting approval. The DA hopes to get the project moving as soon as possible.