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Altercation highlights security concerns at Petersburg courthouse

Posted at 6:50 PM, Nov 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-15 18:53:28-05

PETERSBURG, Va. -- Petersburg Sheriff's Deputies moved fast to try and halt verbal sparring between two families walking out of circuit court Tuesday morning.

Petersburg Police arrived for added support as the confrontation escalated.

More than a dozen people were involved in the incident, which caused some to express concerns about security inside and outside the courthouse.

Sheriff Vanessa Crawford said the argument was "extremely" dangerous.

"Because you did not know what people had in the parking lot, that was a blind area, you didn't know what people had in their pockets," she added.

Petersburg Commonwealth's Attorney Cassandra Conover agreed, and said, "today could have been extremely dangerous."

Conover said her concerns began last year when the jail was closed, because the sheriff's sworn deputies were reduced to just 18.

"There is security and we can handle it, but it's not as good as it should be," she said.

Sheriff Crawford says when the jail closed she lost 74 employees and now "We need increased staffing" adding it's important to us to keep everyone that comes into the courthouse safe "so without adequate staffing, that becomes an increased problem".

The Sheriff is quick to point out her staff is very well-trained "We have been able to contain all the problems thus far, but we don't want it to come to a day where there's something that happens that we cannot address appropriately".

In an effort to make sure that doesn't happen the  Sheriff says "I've actually met with the new Interim City Manager and he's working on a plan for us".

The Commonwealth's Attorney Cassandra Conover says "The bottom line is, Security needs to be improved but there is security".

Petersburg Police say one person was detained Tuesday morning but there were no arrests.

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