Fences placed at Arizona Capitol to increase security for lawmakers ahead of election

The Capitol the latest entity taking precautions after many local and state offices nationwide experienced death threats and harassment.
Published: Jun. 7, 2023 at 6:59 PM MST|Updated: Jun. 7, 2023 at 7:39 PM MST

PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- The state Capitol is ramping up security efforts ahead of the 2024 election. They’re just the latest entity taking precautions after many local and state offices nationwide experienced death threats and harassment since the presidential election.

Lawmakers hope this will help increase security and make them feel safer, but they hope it won’t make the public feel unwelcome. “It became very, very apparent that we were not able to handle large crowds,” said Karen Fann, who helped roll out the project.

Concrete columns and tall metal bars have been added. “For some reason, they think it’s acceptable now to come down and accost or get in members faces,” said Fann.

The fence has been in talks for several years. But Fann, the former Senate president, says things escalated quickly after claims of election fraud and denial sparked outrage. “They were in our parking lot and literally threatening some of our members. Our female members felt threatened. We weren’t able to do anything,” she explained.

The project was approved in last year’s state budget and funded by taxpayers. Kinella Construction, a general contracting company out of Mesa, is handling the project. “Our whole goal was to be aesthetically pleasing so that it didn’t look like anyone was being kept out,“ Fann said.

The barrier was made to match the stone walls of the buildings, but beauty is not the only purpose. Senate members will be able to exit hearings into a secured parking lot. “In the meantime, we have to make sure that not only our members and our staff are protected, but the public that are there at the buildings at the time these incidents occur,” she said.

They are prioritizing safety over everything. According to a spokesperson for the Senate, three cars were vandalized just a month ago during budget negotiations. Two were owned by Senate staff, and the third was a lobbyist. “It’s just the way things are going in today’s society,” Fann said.

The Capitol isn’t the first to implement a new security design. In 2021, the Maricopa County elections department put up permanent fencing. The project is expected to be completed in mid-July. It’ll cost a total of $2.6 million, including $1.2 million on the Senate side and $1.4 million on the House, with slightly more ground to cover.

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