Elorza Spends to Upgrade His Office Security, Draws Criticism

Tuesday, March 27, 2018


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Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza has enhanced security to his City Hall office.

Enhanced security measures for Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza -- including a closed-circuit camera at the main door to his office suite, to which entrants have to be buzzed in -- have drawn fire from one City Council member, as they compare to the rest of City Hall. 

"City Hall has been porous for far too long, "said Providence City Councilman Luis Aponte of the rest of the building. "You can walk in with any box, bag, or duffle bag. It puts at risk the well-being of workers at City Hall, the people who visit, and people who come to the city to conduct business."

According to Elorza's spokesperson, the upgrades to the Mayor's office went into effect on February 26.

Walk into the Rhode Island State House, and visitors must pass through a metal detector.

The two public entrances to Providence City Hall, however -- on Fulton and Washington Streets -- are publicly accessible with no visible security measures. 

Providence Police are regularly present on the first floor and throughout City Hall, primarily at a centrally located office and desk. 

Varying Degrees of City Hall Security

"There should be enhanced security throughout City Hall and city buildings that are porous and don't have the appropriate security in place. 444 Westminster, where the legal and building departments are, they are even more vulnerable, they don't even have an officer there," said Aponte. 

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The locked door, intercom, and keypad at the entrance to Elorza's wing of City Hall, which provides an additional level of security not present in the rest of the building.

When asked whose responsibility it is to oversee the security of City Hall, Aponte responded with the following. 

"It would seem to be an administrative function, to ensure the security of its citizens -- as they've assured the security of the Mayor," said Aponte.

Elorza's office said there are current efforts to further upgrade the building. 

"Phase 1 and 2 of security upgrades throughout City Hall include Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) improvements, the installation and replacement of video cameras, wiring, proximity readers for doors, exterior door improvements, miscellaneous repairs as well as the relocation of the security office and new equipment for it. The back entrances at City Hall have also been locked, with the exception of handicap use, as a way to limit points of entry to City Hall to enhance security," said press secretary Victor Morente, who noted "phase 3" is under development. 

"The cost for the extensive improvements as part of Phase 1 and 2 was $184,336.98," said Morente.

City Halls Around the Country

Around the country, city halls have varying degrees of security. 

In Wichita, Kansas:

All persons and property are subject to search as a condition of entry into the building. Searches consist of walk-through metal detectors, removal/examination of metal objects and contents of pockets, removal and x-ray examination of all outerwear and property, hand-held metal detector searches, identification checks and pat-downs of persons. If a situation cannot be satisfactorily resolved by these processes, the person and/or property are denied entry.

At all times, objects larger than 20" wide by 16" high by 20" long are prohibited unless advance arrangements are made with security. When the building is closed to the public, backpacks, attache cases, luggage and packages are prohibited.

In Buffalo, NY, a local news station -- WIVB -- reported, "What are People Trying To Sneak Through City Hall Security?"

The latest security measure at City Hall are 3,000-lb concrete bollards, intended to stop someone using a vehicle as a weapon, as has been the case in London, Paris and Nice.

In addition to the bollards, through the doors of City Hall, visitors are met by an X-ray machine and additional guards. And what they’ve confiscated in the first 11 months of operation is interesting, and in some cases, illegal.

Buffalo Police Lt. Jeff Rinaldo on Tuesday showed off some of the items — literally boxes full of knives, stun guns, mace, razors, brass knuckles — that private guards have taken since last July. Much of this stuff is illegal to carry in New York state.

Although the security is done through a private firm, BPD officers been called to make arrests, but those have been fewer than expected.

“We are seeing everything from people trying to enter the building with knives, brass knuckles, stun guns, mace, razor blades, and we’re seeing improvised weapons,” Rinaldo said. “I think that what we’re seeing is the average person that goes through the building is there with good intentions, but based on what we’ve been able to confiscate some of these weapons have no other purpose than to truly harm somebody.”

The stepped up security at City Hall is the result of a 2014 audit conducted by the Department of Homeland Security.


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