ADA — Visitors to Pontotoc County Courthouse may notice the new metal detection equipment at the entrance to the stairs and to the elevator placed by Sheriff Pete Peterson. The equipment was purchased with money received from a State Homeland Security grant Peterson applied for to upgrade security.

“This is termed ‘target hardening.’ I feel the courthouse could be a prime target for a terrorist attack. I would rather have a full time deputy provide security by monitoring activity in the courthouse,” Peterson said. “But, this was an option I felt we needed to protect everybody in the courthouse. It was paid for through the $38,000 grant we received.”

Courthouse officials also recently installed video surveillance cameras in an effort to tighten security.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security awarded $32 million to the state of Oklahoma as part of the FY 2004 State Homeland Security Grant Program to be spent over a two-year period. The funds are used to help address three critical areas: Citizens Corps Programs, State Homeland Security Program and Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention.

“We will use this money to address one of the most pressing challenges facing responders of all disciplines – the lack of an inter-operable communications system,” said Gov. Brad Henry. “These funds will also help us take an important first step toward the coordination of information sharing in the responder community. We will also be able to enhance prevention strategies such as protection of critical infrastructure.”

According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the effectiveness of these grants will be further strengthened by continued DHS efforts to identify and assess the risks to critical infrastructure and develop appropriate protective measures. The Office of Infrastructure Protection conducts site visits and works with infrastructure owners as well as local law enforcement officials who protect critical infrastructure to reduce vulnerabilities to a terrorist attack. As 85 percent of all critical infrastructure is privately owned, funding for outreach efforts are also included to build strategic partnerships with state, local, and private entities.

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