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A new report released on Friday by the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that security efforts at federal courthouses nationwide have kept pace with the growing number of threats, but that the federal agencies with a hand in security could do a better job of communicating. According to the report, the number of threats against federal courthouses nationwide has more than doubled since 2004, from about 600 to 1,400 threats each year. The report covers 424 federal courthouses, including district, appellate and bankruptcy courts. The report doesn’t offer a district-by-district breakdown for security reasons, according to Government Accountability Office spokesman Ned Griffith. The U.S. Marshals Service and the Federal Protective Service, an agency within the Department of Homeland Security, share security responsibilities when it comes to federal courthouses. The U.S. Marshals Services takes the lead on security, but the Federal Protective Service takes care of security for buildings owned and maintained by the General Services Administration, which includes courthouses. The General Services Administration also takes responsibility for security concerns in designing, building and maintaining federal courthouses. The report found that this system can create problems when there are security issues that fall under more than one agency. The U.S. Marshals Service and Federal Protective Service have separate chains of command, meaning there is no one authority for court employees or other agencies to coordinate with on security. This, in turn, means different agencies are doing some of the same jobs. In one courthouse, for instance, both the U.S. Marshals Service and the Federal Protective Service had their own cameras pointed at the same courthouse lobby. “Marshals Service, FPS, and judiciary officials told us they considered this redundant,” the report stated. In some courthouses, representatives of different agencies didn’t always attend the same meetings on courthouse security, the report found, so there were fewer opportunities to engage in interagency talks. The report also brings up some of the unique challenges to protecting courthouses. Of the 424 federal courthouses, for instance, 146 have historic status, making it more difficult and time-consuming to modernize or install new security features. The Government Accountability Office recommends defining the security roles of each federal agency, detailing ways to bring all agencies involved to communicate with one another and making sure the U.S. Marshals Service and Federal Protective Service are writing up the required reports on risks facing individual courthouses. A spokesman for the U.S. Marshals Service, Jeffrey Carter, said Monday that, “the U.S. Marshals Service concurs with the recommendations contained in the report.” He declined to comment on conditions at individual courthouses. Zoe Tillman can be contacted at [email protected]

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