City Hall turns on tighter security measures

Laptops, cellphones must be powered up before entering City Hall

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Visitors to Jacksonville's City Hall might notice some security changes, as cellphones and laptops are now being examined with more scrutiny.

Every visitor to City Hall has to go through the same procedure. Bags are searched, wallets and phones go through an X-ray machine and everyone must walk though a metal detector. If the alarm sounds, the visitor is checked with a security wand.

It's a fairly routine procedure, as security personnel check for guns or other weapons.

But guests must also now turn on their cellphones and laptops before entering the building.

According to the city, First Coast Security, which runs security operations at City Hall, got a memo from Homeland Security suggesting the changes. The city said it has not seen that memo, but wants to see it. In the meantime, the changes will remain in place.

News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith said turning the devices on might be a way to ensure they are not dummy devices holding explosives.

Unlike City Hall, the Duval County Courthouse is not requiring computers or phones to be turned on, although it is still checking all visitors before they enter the building.

The federal courthouse has never allowed the public to bring in phones or computers without an exception being approved beforehand.

Smith said the extra precautions at City Hall could be a wise move.

“It is not a bad idea," Smith said. "Anytime you can have an extra added security, it's a good thing, instead of waiting for it to happen someplace else and then deciding to do it."

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