Cops in Libraries

I really should be Pitting this, but I just can’t gather the energy. I’m angry, but mostly saddened.

I just saw this story. The short version is that a librarian confronted an apparantly homeless man who was masturbating in the library, and he responded by trying to knife her. The officer on the scene tasered the man, and no one was hurt beyond that.

The only person in this sequence of events whom I have a problem with is the guy jacking off in the library, who seems to have been some kind of repeat customer there.

But the last line from the linked article just saddens me to no end.

Given the sequence of events that just went down, this was obviously a wise decision. I don’t know if it’s cost-effective, but it certainly saved one woman from at least a nasty wound, I believe.

But what does it say that we need to have armed guards in libraries? :frowning:

I have a feeling that the only libraries being staffed by armed guards are major downtown and inner-city ones that have trouble with homeless people loitering, not your typical residential/suburban neighborhood branch. After all, the library is free, public, and air-conditioned/heated.

For example:
I frequent the Central library in Milwaukee often. Very often. Without fail, there are at least a dozen or so homeless persons on the stairs leading up to the main entrance, and many more inside. Some/most are not properly medicated and can be really disruptive. This location has security guards, but my neighborhood branch doesn’t.

The upside of this is that “Shhh!” now has teeth.

I work for a University Security office and while we don’t have the scores of homeless wandering around that they do downtown, we do have ongoing problems with unsavory types looking at Porn.

Fortunately for us, we have not had any masterbaters. If that were to happen, we’d be calling the police and having them charged. Usually we just trespass people, which means that they aren’t allowed back on campus for one year on penalty of criminal charges.

The saddest part of “Porn Patrol” is that we’re just as likely these days to be trespassing a minor. Despite a ‘no unaccompanied minors allowed in the library’ policy. Back in February, I trespassed a 13 year old. Last week one of my co-workers trespassed a 12 year old who was looking at anal sex sites. The worst was the 16 year old that was looking at sex offender listings, gay porn and ‘finding men’ sites all at the same time. That one creeped me out.

99% of the people we trespass for this offense say “I didn’t know that I couldn’t do that here!”. Which explains why most of them are found in a very few computers either out of sight in corners, or in the three “jump seats” that have a great view of the entrance - where they can see us coming.

I’ve had one guy, a Grad Student, who was viewing porn right in the open area, visible to everyone who came through, and who started blubbering about how he knows that he has a problem and he’s trying to get help. Sure buddy. Just get the hell out of here and don’t come back.

What’s the problem with merely viewing porn, if they aren’t doing other squicky things? Can others see it? Do your computers not reset and clear their caches between user logons?

Grr. Missed edit window. Anyways…

Is the problem with merely viewing porn, or is it that they are doing other squicky things at the same time? Can others see it? Do your computers not reset and clear their caches between user logons, thus leaving unwanted traces for the next user?

There are plenty of other squicky things–medical research, for example–that people sometimes need to look at. Outside its filtered workstations, the Toronto public library specifically warns the user that the internet is unregulated and you basically have to be an adult to go on it.

I agree that disruptive people shouldn’t be there; a library is a place for quiet and study.

I worked in various libraries for 7 years in High School and College. This happens more often than you expect there, because:
[li]It’s quiet[/li][li]It’s non-confrontational[/li][li]Most of the staff are female[/li][li]It’s so unexpected[/li][/ul]

I’m a 6’ tall male, and I never had a problem; but many of my female colleagues were flashed, or came across a person masturbating.

My wife worked a downtown library, and they put up a sign that said “zip up, all ye who enter here”, because they were having the police there several times a week. (The library board made them take it down)

We had one “gentleman” who came in every Sunday for 8 weeks running, and try to flash the female staff, and the children. He’d then take off once he’d succeeded; making it impossible to catch his car’s license number.

I finally began following him around the building every Sunday, while the female staff called the cops. (The cops always seemed to arrive 5 minutes late).
After about 5 weeks, he’d walk in, see if I was working, and if I was, he’d turn and walk out.

He was arrested a few weeks later at another library, where he flashed a staff person from my building who was substituting there. (They were next door to the stereotypical donut shop; the cops didn’t have to go far)

At a different building, we had a man flash a patron, who became hysterical. He booked out the door, and was gone before she calmed down enough to tell us what happened. She was so upset that she declared “I’m never coming back here again!!”

Fast-forward 6 months. She comes in for the first time after the incident, and tentatively says “Hi” to the staff (She was a hard-core regular prior to the incident; we all knew her); walks back to the stacks, and runs up to us crying. She manages to sob “He’s here! He’s back there again!!!”

We call the cops. Within a minute of the call, the 2 biggest policemen I’ve ever seen walk in. One’s about 6’5", and tiny compared to the other. The walk back to the stacks, and come out carrying a man about 5’2", who’s trying to zip up his trousers. He was later found to be a sexual offender, and incarcerated for several years.

There were several others during the same time, in our mid-sized suburban library system. (10 branches in the northern suburbs of Minneapolis/St Paul).

The nice thing was that we were a county-sponsored system, so not only did the local PD respond, but the Sheriff’s Office also responded to any calls.


That’s good, Eliphalet. Jerks who force themselves on others deserve to be ejected at the least.

The largest part, IMHO, is that the computers are in the public view, and that porn is considered private. I wouldn’t want to see an autopsy, a person’s CC statements, or a prostate exam on the PC’s at a library, even though it would be technically legitimate.

That being said, I am firmly against the filtering software that the government has forced into most libraries in the US. Under the first version of the software that my wife’s library used, WebMD and Wikipedia were both banned, among many others. Even the SDMB was blacklisted for a time, until the staff protested.

Thanks for all the library horror stories. Eliphalet, I’m glad that they caught that one guy.

I know no one is accusing me of being an idiot, but I do feel the need to explicitly state - I don’t think that it’s unreasonable to station a cop in the library, these days. I’m just sad that it’s seen to be necessary.

Then they need to warn users that this is a public area and private activities and information are not recommended. The you could go after any sort of squickiness no problem. It just seems to be that, given the difficulty of finding a definition for porn that successfully distinguishes between porn and non-porn sexual content, banning porn without impeding other research would be very difficult.

Was the filtering mandatory on all public workstations? If so, why? In Toronto, it’s on the “children’s” workstations, and the others have big warnings.

2 of my kids work in the library in our upper middle class Chicago burb. Never heard any problems of masturbating, but several homeless sleep there all day. (The local churches have shelters, but when they kick them out in the morning, several head over to the library.) As someone said, they are public places, so it is hard to kick someone out just because they are homeless. My daughter says some of them smell pretty bad. Maybe they should install a shower?

The other day a guy came in and asked where the PolSci books were located. After being directed there, he started pulling books off the shelves and flinging them at the ceiling. When someone asked him if he needed help he replied, “No, I’m just reshelving these books.” And proceeded to continue hurling books at the ceiling. Cops were call and escorted him out.

It’s a man’s life in the library services!

My oh my. I was at the library last week and not only did I witness two girls trying to sneak (read: steal) books out inside their book bag but I witnessed another girl five minutes later run out of the library with something that set the sensors off.

I just don’t get it. You are allowed to borrow all this stuff for free and people try and steal it.

I thought that was sad but these library horror stories just blow my mind.

There is a cop who is stationed at my library, though his main duty seems to be keeping the teenagers quiet. This is in a mostly residential “city” of about 80,000.

On the other hand, the main library in Providence which is located downtown, has a fair number of street people as regular clientel and has old school stacks which have proved to be just perfect for dealing and shooting drugs on occassion only has rent-a-cops.

this isn’t GD, but can somebody please explain to me why there is no legal remedy for removing undesirables from the library?
Yes, I know there have been Supreme Court decisions which declared using a library as a First Ammendment right. And public libraries are, of course, public, supported by tax dollars, etc, so they can’t discriminate.

But lots of restaurants have a sign saying “We reserve the right to refuse service” to people who don’t follow the rules. As long as you don’t discriminate on the basis of race, religion, etc, this is legal.
“No shoes, no shirt no service” is legal…so why not disallow other clearly undesirable behaviors?
“No sleeping on the library benches” is also legal, I assume.

So why not signs like these:
“Nobody who reeks of vomit and alcohol allowed in the computer room”
“Anybody who disturbs the peace enough that we have to call the cops will be registered on a list --after 3 listings, you will be banned from the stacks and the computer room. After 5 listings, banned from the entire library.”

Yeah, I know I’m fantasizing, and it would never get past the ACLU lawyers.
But it sure would be nice if people would use common sense instead of legal nitpicks.

I worked in a downtown library in the 80’s.

We had security guys, & we had the odd creep or two.

Most of the Homeless were pretty quiet, just wanted In, from the cold/heat/rain.

Not too long ago, we had problems with that in the local library system.

It was political. A local right-wing church had decided that the public library should not contain books that their church disagreed with. (Mainly books on sex education that mentioned gays or lesbians, or childrens books like “Heather Has Two Mommies”.)

After efforts to get the books banned failed, they began an effort to steal all such books from the library. They tended to have underage juveniles doing this (extra credit in Sunday school, maybe?) or elderly church ladies. (But not the minister – he wasn’t about to risk a jail term for himself!)

A librarian in my home town was assaulted a year or so ago by a homeless man as she left work. From what I remember he hit her and knocked her to the ground, but luckily someone else was around to drag him away before he really hurt her. He was a regular in the library. I’m pretty sure they now have a police officer in that branch of the library full-time.

Man, when I worked downtown (well, I still work downtown, but in an entirely different environment), the worst I had to deal with was the Satan Lady. She (homeless crazy lady) constantly requested information on churches, Jesus, and Satan (and left bizarre notes about such things.)

It was library policy to give her one single printed page for each request. It made her happy and she would go away. But then again, they’ve had a major security force for ages. Sleeping is not permitted, but it’s policy to let people hang out, and they do, for most all of the day.

Now that I work in the “private” library sector (I serve the public at large, but our building is blessedly not public), all I get is the rare really stinky person. Ugh, I hate the stinky ones.

I haven’t been to the downtown branch of the Houston Public Library in years, but I remember some pretty scary homeless people hanging around there even in the early '90s. I always wished there were some cops within shouting distance just in case. I’m sorry it’s a problem, but I’m glad people call in police protection when it’s needed.

Our college library had a flasher who showd up repeatedly during the four years I was at school there. They never caught the guy. Flasher sightings were like an urban legend on campus after awhile. What is it with perverts and libraries?