By Joel Hall
In order to increase security at the Jonesboro Municipal Court, city officials have approved a $2,700 purchase of a metal-detection system.
Maj. Tim Jessup, acting head of the Jonesboro Police Department, said the system is necessary to defend against potential threats.
In addition to the metal detectors, the city decided to spend $5,000 of its contingency fund Monday to participate in the Archway Partnership Project for a second year, despite the reservations of some residents, and council members.
The Jonesboro City Council voted 4-2 (with councilmen Bobby Wiggins and Rick Yonce opposed) to pay for the metal-detection system by using Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) funds.
"Most police departments that have their own city court ... have metal detectors, and they do take stuff off of people," Maj. Jessup said. "I used to work over in Riverdale and I know they did over there. It's just a matter of time. If one person gets hurt, that's one person too many. Two thousand, seven hundred dollars, I think that's a small price to pay to make sure someone doesn't bring a weapon into this courtroom," he said.
While city officials voted to increase the security of its courtroom, some residents expressed more concern about safety on city streets. Several of them, reacting to a midday shooting in downtown Jonesboro on Friday, asked the city to beef up its downtown security.
Some contended that a pending lawsuit between the city and the city's former Police Chief, Brad Johnson, has weakened the city's defenses.
"I drive through Jonesboro daily," said Deborah Ybarra, a Clayton County resident. "That's a scary thought that it could have been me at that corner, and somebody could have taken my vehicle and shot me. If we had a camera outside of the depot, or outside of Heritage Bank, I guarantee you that we would, at least, have some idea of who these three boys were.
"All this police chief stuff, that's what's hurting us, because they [criminals] hear it, and they know that we don't have the protection here, so they keep coming," she added. Ybarra called for more police officers "on the streets" in the downtown area.
In another matter, the city voted 4-2 ( with Councilmen Wiggins and Billy Powell opposed) to pay $5,000 to continue to participate in the Archway Partnership Project (APP). In July of last year, the project was established in Clayton County in order to leverage the resources of the University System of Georgia to address the county's unique challenges.
All seven county municipalities, the Board of Commissioners, the Southern Regional Medical Center, Clayton County Public Health, and the school system, pay a small fee to participate in the program. While the program has sought university assistance to address image, engineering, traffic, and technological issues countywide, some council members expressed skepticism.
"We joined Archway last year and what did we receive from that?" asked Wiggins. "I was thinking we'd get more out of it, like some interns ... Is it worth it?"
Jonesboro Mayor Luther Maddox, who sits on the Archway Partnership Project board, defended the program. "I firmly believe anything that will help Clayton County will help Jonesboro," he said.
Gail Webb, the Archway professional assigned to Clayton, urged Jonesboro residents to look at the big picture. She said a team of undergraduate and graduate students is already in the process of helping the city improve its information database systems, and handle traffic problems better.
"The [university] students are doing the work for the community and they are excited about it, because it is a two-way street," Webb said. "We can help in economic development, information technology. If you look at all the projects these students are doing ... it's all about saving money."