The San Francisco Main library is heightening its security in response to the increase in library crime rates this year. The library plans to improve surveillance and hire a social work to deal with homeless or troubled patrons.
According to a report in the Ex, reported library assaults have gone up from 28 cases last year to 38 this year, a 36% increase. Theft has also reported an increase of 14% from 43 to 49 cases. Drug-related incidents, on the other hand, have decreased from 43 to 33 this year, a drop of 23%.
“While the number of incidents may show a slight increase, it is a minuscule amount considering millions of users,” said City Librarian Luis Herrera told the Ex. “This year, we experienced the highest number of visits to our libraries — almost 7 million, a 10 percent increase from the prior year. Overall, we are extremely pleased with the success of our public safety program.”
As SFPD spokesperson Officer Boaz Mariles told the Appeal in January, the SFPD has officers who are assigned specifically to the Main Library to protect its patrons. “If you’re at the library and experience an issue, make sure to tell security right away. That’s what they’re there for, to keep you safe in the library” Mariles said.
Additional library security measures include bathroom monitors installed to stop people from using the stalls for drugs or the sinks for bathing and shaving. The library has also amended several rules in 2007 in an effort to crack down the whip on bad behavior. Library Commission has explicitly outlawed sex, indecent exposure, and drug use in San Francisco libraries to make legal grounds clear to violators.
The library has also been working with the city’s homeless outreach team since January 2009 and has hired a full-time social worker to connect troubled patrons to needed services. Kathy Lawhun, chief of the library, explained that sometimes just a few patrons can cause a lot of trouble. “We had two particular patrons who were causing about 90 percent of our incidents for a couple of months,” Lawhun said, “and we got them hooked up with a social worker. They got into programs and that really decreased a lot of the incidents.”
So far there has been 591 contacts between the homeless outreach team and troubled library patrons. 69 patrons have been connected with housing, 13 have been placed in permanent housing, and 38 are in stabilization rooms.