By Marty Russell
OXFORD – The phone rings in the office of U.S. Marshal David Crews. It’s the Oxford police chief.
“Are you going to be able to help me out with some extra patrols around the building?” Crews asks.
The chief apparently assures him he will.
It’s Thursday afternoon and Crews has just returned from the federal building in Aberdeen where he was checking on security in preparation for today’s anniversary of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.
Except for the added vigilance by the local police department, he says no extraordinary security precautions are being taken at the four Northern District federal courthouses under his jurisdiction.
“We maintain tight security 365 days a year,” said Crews. “We have very rigorous, stringent security procedures in place all the time.”
Still, he admits that, “We are ratcheting up security this week.”
The same is true at every federal building, he said. Security at facilities such as the combination downtown post office and federal building in Tupelo is handled by the Federal Protective Service, a division of the General Services Administration.
“I suspect they’re doing everything to go the extra mile,” Crews said of his counterparts.
Protecting federal facilities from terrorist threats became a top priority following the Oklahoma City bombing, and new precautions and procedures were put in place at many buildings, including the federal courthouses in the Northern District of Mississippi. But Crews declines to discuss specifics of the current protective measures in order not to divulge any information that might be useful to the wrong element.
“We have added manpower, added security equipment and beefed up our training over the last year,” he said. “But that just complemented our already tight security.”
Crews said business will proceed as usual today at the courthouses under his protection which must remain open for the public to conduct business and for trials to run their course.
“It’s not a sport for the short-winded, trying to protect a building that’s open to the public,” he admits. “You can never totally eliminate the risk. But we feel very confident in the measures we have in place.”
Crews said he had not noticed any overt feelings of apprehension among the employees working in the district’s federal buildings as the anniversary date approached.
“I haven’t heard anybody say they’re going to take (today) off,” he said. “People have their heads up. They have a positive attitude and they’re trying to do their job.”