New security measure scans public at government center

After successfully passing through the new scanner Aug. 21 at the Isanti County Government Center, Sue Hage and daughter Hannah Wangensteen, of Princeton, share a few friendly words with security inspector Tom Scharf. “It’s good to keep everyone safe and secure,” Hage said of the new security measure. Photo by Jon Tatting

After successfully passing through the new scanner Aug. 21 at the Isanti County Government Center, Sue Hage and daughter Hannah Wangensteen, of Princeton, share a few friendly words with security inspector Tom Scharf. “It’s good to keep everyone safe and secure,” Hage said of the new security measure. Photo by Jon Tatting

If you haven’t been to the Isanti County Government Center in the past week, you might want to be prepared for what awaits at the front entrance.

A new metal-detecting scanner and security officer are now stationed at the front and only public entrance at the county government center in Cambridge. Only employees with identification badges can access the building without having to go through the safety enhancement, as the east and west entrances are now reserved exclusively for them.

On the scanner’s third day of use, Wednesday, Aug. 21, jail administrator Dennis Valentyn presented a security update to the County Board members, who seemed pleased with how the scanner had been going with visitors.

“It’s a little different coming in,” he noted.

Upon entering the double doors at the government center, which houses several county departments and the second level court rooms, visitors are greeted by a security inspector who stands on the other side of a long table. The inspector will check through bags and ask for any metal-based items and other belongings to be placed in a basket.

Following this initial check, people then walk through the scanner, which resembles an open door frame. If an item, such as keys or a cellphone, goes through, a buzzer sounds, and the person will be asked to check for such objects and walk through again.

Once cleared, visitors collect their belongings and go on their way. However, certain items will be turned away; these are not confiscated, but rather people are asked to bring them back to their vehicles.

In his update last week, Valentyn said 647 people passed through the checkpoint on Day 1, Aug. 19. Items that were turned away were 20 knives, one pair of scissors, two utility tools and one large can of pepper spray.

The scanner is not used when people exit the building.

“There were a few negative comments but several positive comments such as ‘It’s about time’ and ‘It’s good to see,’” he said.

Similar feedback was received on Day 2, when just short of 600 visitors passed through the scanner. Twenty-nine knives and one can of pepper spray were turned away.

After the board meeting, Valentyn was asked to elaborate on the items that are not accepted at the government center.

“Guns, knives, utility tools, scissors, pepper spray … any weapons,” he said. “If you don’t think you should bring it, don’t.”

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