New Security Cameras Scan Arizona Capitol Grounds

Policing the Capitol grounds just got a little bit easier, thanks to a half dozen new cameras installed on the exterior of the House and Senate buildings.

Though the House and Senate have their own internal security forces and Department of Public Safety officers are assigned to protect lawmakers, security for the rest of the 1700 W. Washington campus is the purview of Legislative Council, which uses the Capitol Police Department to patrol the area.

"Over time, we would be more efficient to rely on cameras [than physical patrols]," said Mike Braun, executive director of Legislative Council.

The cameras, which will be monitored at all times by Capitol Police officers, will give the department the ability to view the exteriors of both legislative buildings, as well as the parking lots for lawmakers and staff. The courtyard between the chambers and the House and Senate lawns will also be visible.

The camera feeds can also be viewed by House and Senate security officers.

Braun said the cameras will make the Capitol premises safer for visitors. It will also allow Capitol Police to immediately be aware of potential problems, such as unauthorized demonstrations at the Capitol.

"The police will see things as they develop, if they develop," he said.

The cameras could also be used to provide supplemental coverage to large events at the Capitol, such as the 2006 immigration march that attracted more than 100,000 people.

Braun said the cost for the six new cameras and the replacement of an existing camera on the Senate building was $35,648.

House beefing up security, too

Increased security measures are also expected within the House. In recent years, House Speaker Jim Weiers has made security a priority, spokesman Barrett Marson said, including posting guards at the entrance to all restricted-access areas during the legislative session and installing card-readers on several doors.

"Safety is paramount for him," Marson said. "We're probably going to look at more ways to increase security without increasing inconvenience for the public, because this is still the people's Legislature. "

Several House employees, who spoke with Arizona Capitol Times on the condition they not be identified, said security cameras were currently being installed inside the building. Marson declined to confirm whether any additional measures were being implemented.

"When we do that stuff, we'll talk about it as soon as it's implemented," he said.

One thing that won't happen in the House, Marson said, is the installation of metal detectors.

"It's unfunctional," he said. "There's no need for them. We have no problem with [weapons].

"We have plenty of security around. We have DPS officers. "

Following the shooting at Virginia Tech University earlier this year, Rep. Steve Gallardo, D-13, asked House leaders to install metal detectors in the building.

In 2005, metal detectors and X-ray machines were added to the Executive Tower's ground floor lobby to scan for weapons and dangerous items. A shooting at the Illinois Capitol in 2004 that left a security guard dead was cited at the time as a reason for the new equipment.