The San Luis Obispo County Courthouse Annex will adopt airport-style security screenings beginning March 15, transforming the historically open facility into one that bans dangerous weapons along with laser pointers, screwdrivers, and skateboards.
After the changes, members of the public will have to enter the court from one of two entrances, down from seven.
"Usually it's not a happy, positive event when people come to court. People are pissed off, angry, mean they're getting something taken away from them," said Hector Gonzalez, the court management analyst who's heading the security project.
"We're trying to make this a safe place to come, without having to worry about someone hurting you."
The security changes have been planned for years. While he's heard some argue that the measures aren't necessary in traditionally mellow SLO, Gonzalez said judges who ordered the changes would rather be safe than sorry.
"If it can happen to Amish girls in a peaceful community, it can happen here," he said, referencing last fall's Pennsylvania school shooting.
Jim Moss, a Paso Robles man recently visiting the courthouse annex, said he'd welcome the change.
"It's a hassle, but it's probably a good idea," he said. "You never know what kind of idiot is going to come in here, carrying whatever."
Gonzalez said the entrance guards won't hold onto prohibited items people will have to leave the building and get rid of them before re-entering.
The changes will cost about $500,000 the first year, which will cover remodeling, the price of the x-ray machines and metal detectors, and a contract to hire four private security guards, who will do the actual screening under the supervision of a Sheriff's deputy.
It will cost about $200,000, primarily for the private guards, in subsequent years.
New surveillance cameras will also be installed.