There’s a new sheriff in Tarrant County, and he’s sending deputies to patrol downtown after a juror was attacked across from the courthouse and someone else was stabbed on its steps.
Downtown Fort Worth typically has been patrolled by city police, but several recent incidents around the county courthouse and county jail have prompted incoming Sheriff Bill Waybourn to take action.
The focus is on the growing homeless population who often sleep on the sidewalks around the two buildings, he said.
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"We haven't arrested anybody. We haven't had any confrontations,” he said. “It's just a very compassionate thing -- this is not where you can be because people are trying to conduct business."
Deputies are patrolling the area on foot and even using segues and motorized vehicles.
The crackdown comes after a judge last month declared a mistrial when a man hit a juror on the head on her way into the courthouse and she was too shaken up to continue her work.
"I felt this bam. And I was looking around like, 'What?'" said the juror, Stephanie Scoggins of Arlington. "It was definitely scary."
She followed the man into the lobby of the jail, of all places, and he was arrested.
In a separate recent incident, one homeless person stabbed another on the courthouse steps.
Waybourn said deputies are helping the homeless people by offering them rides to shelters on the other side of downtown, where they are offered “a hand up – not a handout,” he said.
The sheriff also said he is coordinating the crackdown with Fort Worth police and security officers from nearby Tarrant County Community College.
Not everyone appreciates it.
Angela Bailey lives on the streets.
"The sheriff and three of them, here he comes now, (are) harassing us,” she said. “We can't even catch the city bus. And that's wrong. We're citizens, too. And I'm registered to vote."
But many workers are grateful.
Clare Cheney works in a nearby building and walks past the courthouse every day.
"Yes, I really am. It makes me really relieved," she said.