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Berkeley County hires security firm for county buildings

December 24, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Spurred by unresolved break-ins at three county buildings two months ago, the Berkeley County Commission agreed Thursday to hire a security firm to patrol many of the county's buildings at night.

According to a written proposal submitted by Martinsburg-based Special Services Bureau Inc., the county will pay $13.50 an hour for each security person on patrol. A marked security vehicle and communications system will cost $1 an hour.

Patrolling will be done 12 hours a day, seven days a week, the proposal said.

Buildings to be patrolled include the Dunn Building, Berkeley Building, Magistrate Court and others in the downtown "campus," Commissioner Howard Strauss said.

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Strauss said during the commission meeting that he did not want to say when security officers will begin patrolling, for fear someone would break in beforehand.

Memos will be sent to all affected departments, letting them know of the security measures and to ensure that employees wear identification badges when they work after normal business hours.

Security personnel will submit a daily activity log to the county.

The security proposal was submitted on Nov. 8 - about two weeks after the first of three break-ins at county buildings.

During the weekend of Oct. 23, someone broke into two basement offices in Magistrate Court. Windows were smashed and desk drawers were forced open, with the thief making off with around $2,000 from a bank bag, officials have said.

There are no cameras in that building's basement. No offices on the building's main floor, where cameras are installed, were entered.

Days later, on Oct. 25 or Oct. 26, cash was taken from tellers' safes in the county's Tax Department. Police have refused to say how much was stolen.

Someone also entered the county's main courthouse, beside the Tax Department, but did not take anything, police have said.

No arrests have been made in any of the break-ins.

On Nov. 18, the commissioners asked Sheriff Randy Smith what he could do to make the county's buildings more secure. He replied that his job is only to provide bailiffs during working hours, and that the commissioners needed to contact a professional security firm to assess the buildings.

Commissioner Steve Teufel said funding for the security will come from the county's general budget. Money will be set aside to pay for security next year, while leftover funding will be used to pay for it for the remainder of this year, Teufel said.

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