Norfolk sheriff makes jail, courthouse safer with new technology

Posted at 3:42 PM, Feb 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-05 16:44:04-05

NORFOLK, Va. - Norfolk Sheriff Joe Baron is taking action to help keep people safe in the city's courthouse and jail.

Whether you're a member of the public going to a jury trial or an employee heading to work at the jail, there's one more security test that you will need to pass: "Check" or "X."

With CARES Act funding, Sheriff Baron was able to secure thermal imaging cameras that detect a person's body temperature in seconds.

"It's a new way to allow us to work more effectively and efficiently in our security operations," he said.

Showing News 3 how the technology worked, Shane Thomson, the Director of IT for the Norfolk Sheriff's Office, said, "As soon as they see that green checkmark, [they] know [they're] good."

The idea is to stop anyone with an elevated temperature or fever from making their way inside of these populated city buildings.

While the sheriff's office purchased the cameras to help fight the spread of COVID-19, Circuit Court Chief Judge Mary Jane Hall said it will make courthouse operations more efficient.

"Before, you would have individual people holding the temperature gun to your head. Sometimes the line would just go outside and people were just clumped together, and it was kind of discouraging to see. Now, they just keep on moving and they move right on through," she said. "These gentlemen who are checking the metal detectors, they've got a lot of things to worry about: 'Do you have something in your pocket? Do you have something in your purse?' It's just one less thing for them to have to worry about."

She said it also keeps cases on schedule.

Thomson said there are three parts to the technology: The software, the camera and a heat reference.

If someone's temperature registers more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the alarm will sound, and a red blinking "X" will cover the screen.

"The audible alarm is going off so nobody has to watch the screen to look for the red X," Thomson said.

Sheriff Baron said replacing the hand-held scanners will allow his deputies to focus solely on security measures, like checking someone through the metal detector, checking bags and monitoring scanners.

"It helps them be focused on what I need them to be focused on," Sheriff Baron said. "You've got to move a large number of people through a process that is about safety and security, but also about the health and well-being of the people in both those facilities."

Because the cameras were purchased with CARES Act funding, there is no cost to the Norfolk taxpayer.

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