BELLEVILLE, Ill. – A major, permanent security change at the St. Clair County Courthouse in Belleville, Illinois, happened on Monday. The change came in response to a threat to blow up the building, along with recent mass shootings elsewhere.
It was day one of having to pass through metal detectors to gain access to courthouse offices.
“You know what, this is great. I like it,” said Dedra Moore, an attorney.
“We’re thrilled we were able to get by without anything happening,” said Sgt. James Hendricks of the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department.
The county will soon begin work to shift the current main courthouse entrance on West Main Street to the rear of the building at 1st and Washington.
New security provisions were part of that plan, but with the recent incidents, authorities decided those new security provisions couldn’t wait.
“Now is the day; don’t wait until it actually happens,” Hendricks said.
Stewart Lannert, 80, of Belleville, is charged with “making a terrorist threat,” a class X felony. A court document said he threatened to blow up the courthouse with dynamite last month.
There have been metal detectors outside the courtrooms for years, but people have had unchecked access to all other offices, from the court clerk to the state’s attorney.
“We wanted to change that,” Hendricks said. “We wanted to make sure that anyone who was inside the building had already been checked. That way, if they went to a restroom or anywhere, we knew they were free of any kind of weapons that could harm anyone. All of our employees and most of the citizens we’ve spoken to, they demand this kind of security.”
He said the new security provisions required six additional bailiffs and public safety personnel.
“This is what I expect to see. This is the norm,” Moore said. “The deputies here have always done a good job of making me feel safe, but just to know that added protection not just for going into a courtroom but for going onto other floors like mapping, planning, and all of those places.”
A cost estimate for the security changes was not immediately available.
Lannert remains jailed with a bond set at $1 million.