Seeking security? Plant defensively

Apparently the boulders delivered to guard the entrance of the Albemarle County Office Building just weren't doing the job, and they've been replaced. Giant planters are coming in to defend the building from terrorist attacks.

It's a Code Orange thing. In the past, police cars were parked in front of the visitors' entrance during heightened alerts, never mind that the whole back of the building and the drive-up window were unprotected. The boulder garden was installed in August.

"We announced it was a temporary measure while we decided what to do because the police car parked in front was not a deterrent," says county spokeswoman Lee Catlin. "In the long-term plan, the rocks really didn't fit. Kids were climbing on them, and we figured they'd be better in a park setting."

The dozen boulders cost $4,000. Moving them to Darden Towe Park costs another $1,000, according to Catlin.

In the boulders' stead 10 new planters will soon sprout. Each will cost $2,000, funded from the county's capital improvements budget.

"The new planters are designed to prevent terrorist attacks," says Catlin. "They're much heavier and sturdier, and they're really intended to be a barrier, not just a visual aesthetic."

Just as the boulders drew some jeers as a protective measure, so do the terrorist-fighting planters.

"I just put a potted plant in my window," online journalist Waldo Jaquith writes on "Al Qaeda will never get in now!"

An article in last week's New York Times describes how Homeland Security measures have become pork barrels in some low-threat states.

Is the County Office Building really safer with the planters in front?

"Probably when you look at security measures in general, if someone is determined, it's hard to eliminate that threat," says Catlin. "We're trying to take reasonable precautions. Encasing the building with concrete barriers is not reasonable for us. We're still a public building."

She adds, "We don't think it's responsible to do nothing. We don't think it's reasonable to sit behind a fortress."

Badges are another security measure being discussed. But so far, no plans to barricade the drive-up window.

The terrorist-fighting boulders got fired from their post in front of the County Office Building and have been dispatched to defend Darden Towe Park instead.