Metal detectors guarding the doors of the Van Nuys and San Fernando courthouses will no longer be staffed as of July 1 because of proposed county budget cuts, court officials said Wednesday.
"This seems to pose a significant risk to those who use these facilities," said Superior Court Judge Cecil Mills, who is supervising criminal judge. "I think we have an obligation to provide a safe haven to those who use the courthouse."
Mills said Los Angeles County has so far refused to provide about $3 million in security-related funding to the Superior and Municipal courts for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
While the county owns several metal detectors at the Van Nuys Courthouse, annual personnel costs associated with the devices run well above $100,000. Presently, both San Fernand Valley courts have contracts with two agencies--the county Safety Police and Pinkerton Security & Investigation Services--to screen people for weapons and contraband.
Court officials have asked the sheriff's and marshal's departments to provide personnel to man the detectors. Either agency would require reimbursement for the service should either take on the job, according to spokesmen for each.
"It's not something that can be done by mere request," said Lee Baca, who heads the sheriff's court services division.
Citing "the volume of weaponry they take off people who are stupid enough to wait in line" at a metal detector, Mills said this measure of safety is essential to maintain a "safe haven" in the courthouse.
Van Nuys Courthouse officials say it is essential to maintain the metal detectors. A woman was stabbed there by her estranged husband in August, 1991, and a man who brought a gun into court was shot and killed by a deputy five years ago.