DeKalb officials say security costs have skyrocketed after gun law


DeKalb County officials say the cost of providing security in government buildings is ballooning, mainly due to more requests for armed guards from department heads.

Some commissioners and Police Chief James Conroy blamed a 2014 state law that allows more civilian firearms in public places. Because of that, they say, agencies are requesting armed guards as a security precaution in high traffic areas.

“When the new law was enacted a couple of years ago about allowing licensed firearms (and) concealed carry permit holders to bring firearms into government buildings, we saw an increase at eight locations that requested armed guards instead of unarmed,” said Conroy, whose department oversees the security contract.

The county wouldn’t say where these facilities are.

Commissioners voted Tuesday to add $1.4 million to its contract with All N One Security Services, bringing the total to $5.3 million allocated over five years.

DeKalb spent $735,000 in 2014 on the contract, which covered armed and unarmed security guards. Last year, the amount rose to roughly $1.3 million, a 73 percent increase caused mainly by the rising demand for armed guards, county officials said.

Armed security is paid $17.43 an hour, compared to $14.75 an hour for unarmed.

In addition to the All N One guards, security at government offices is provided by DeKalb Police and an auxiliary force of nearly 30 retired or former officers who volunteer their time. The county says it keeps costs down by hiring All N One guards when possible, since they are paid less per hour than police.

The number of Georgians with concealed weapons permits has increased since the gun law was expanded in 2014 to allow people to bring their firearms in government buildings.

There were 750,000 active permits in the state at the end of 2014 compared to 979,006 in May 2017, according to the Crime Prevention Research Center.

Still, DeKalb officials say they have no way to know if the number of armed civilians in government buildings has increased. The only example of a security issue near a public building they cited was a 2016 shooting outside a library and senior center in South DeKalb, where the armed guard was credited for responding quickly to avoid further injuries.

There is one caveat in the 2014 law: Guns can be prohibited from public buildings if there are security officers and screening equipment stationed at the door.

Commissioner Jeff Rader said he was told that the law also requires that those security officers have weapons, another reason why the county requested more armed officers.

“We want to ban guns from public buildings, and this is the only means that is available for us to do so,” Rader said. “So, unfortunately, now the citizens of DeKalb County have to pay these extraordinary costs in order to achieve that goal.

Other metro Atlanta counties have not reported the same increase in security costs. Fulton County, for example, hires unarmed, private security guards. If there is a need for armed security, it is handled by the sworn officers. A Gwinnett County spokesman said the county uses sheriff’s deputies and police officers to provide armed security at public buildings.

Neither reported an increase in problems since the state law went into effect.

DeKalb commissioners have asked Conroy and CEO Mike Thurmond’s office to review whether armed guards are needed at parks and recreation facilities.

“We are in the process of evaluating security at all the facilities,” county chief operating officer Zach Williams said during a committee meeting to discuss the security costs.

Rader says it’s just common sense that, if more county residents might be coming to county buildings armed, the county would want armed security in those buildings as well. “But it’s going to be very expensive, thanks to your General Assembly.”

-- Staff writers Arielle Kass, Meris Lutz and Tyler Estep contributed to this report.

MYAJC.COM: REAL JOURNALISM. REAL LOCAL IMPACT.

The AJC's Tia Mitchell keeps you updated on the latest happenings in DeKalb County government and politics. You'll find more on myAJC.com, including these stories:

 

Never miss a minute of what's happening in DeKalb politics. Subscribe to myAJC.com.

In other DeKalb news:



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Parents file $750,000 lawsuit against Tennessee trampoline park
Parents file $750,000 lawsuit against Tennessee trampoline park

A Tennessee family filed a $750,000 lawsuit against Urban Air Trampoline and Adventure Park in Cordova.  Two parents filed the lawsuit in Shelby County Circuit Court last week on behalf of their son, who was injured on a rope course at the park in September 2017.  “He was given a harness by an employee, and after he had...
Texas schoolwork asking for 'positive aspects' of slave life 'unacceptable'
Texas schoolwork asking for 'positive aspects' of slave life 'unacceptable'

U.S. Rep. Joaquín Castro, D-San Antonio, took to Twitter on Thursday to call out a San Antonio school assignment about slavery that he called “unacceptable.”  Castro tweeted an image of the assignment, which asked students to list both positive and negative aspects to living as a slave.  The charter school where the assignment...
Southwest Airlines reportedly gives $5,000 checks to passengers from Flight 1380
Southwest Airlines reportedly gives $5,000 checks to passengers from Flight 1380

At least three passengers who were aboard Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 received a $5,000 check in a letter from the airline, CNN reported Friday. One passenger, 43-year-old Jennifer Riordan of Albuquerque, New Mexico, died after debris from the plane’s engine blew out a window. The plane was forced to make an emergency landing...
Police: Man stays at bar for 30 minutes after being stabbed
Police: Man stays at bar for 30 minutes after being stabbed

A man who was stabbed early Thursday morning while at a Pittsburgh bar remained at the establishment for 30 minutes before leaving, investigators said. Police were called about 2 a.m. to a residential area near Pollock’s Cafe. Investigators said the 40-year-old victim was stabbed in the shoulder after he apparently got into a fight with another...
Arizona teachers approve strike, will walk out next Thursday
Arizona teachers approve strike, will walk out next Thursday

Arizona teachers voted in favor of a strike Thursday night as the educators demanded higher wages and better classroom conditions, KTAR reported. The walkout is scheduled for next Thursday. “Seventy-eight percent of the school employees in this state said yes,” Joe Thomas, president of the Arizona Education Association said during...
More Stories