Mayor Michael Hancock says he doesn’t blame parents who refuse to take their children to the downtown library after 9Wants to Know’s undercover investigation exposed meth deals and heroin use taking place out in the open.
“What do you say to parents who are going to say, ‘I am not going to go down there? I am not going to take my kids down there because of what I see,’” investigative reporter Jeremy Jojola asked the mayor.
“I don't blame them,” Mayor Hancock said. “You know, if my children were small and still going in and out of that library, I wouldn't want to take them down there either. I certainly get it. But our job is to fix it.”
Hundreds of viewers have shared their concerns over the current amount of blatant drug use and crime occurring at Denver’s main public library, many of them expressing fears of taking children to the location.
“We love the library,” one viewer email began. “Which is why it pains me that I have asked (our child-care provider) not to take our library-loving kids to the central branch.”
A 9Wants to Know analysis of emergency dispatch calls to the downtown library showed that all calls have more than doubled during the first four months of 2017 compared to the same time last year. Some of the most notable spikes in crime were calls for assaults or fights, and drug overdose.
“We know that in this city and all over this country we have an opioid epidemic that’s taken place -- there’s no need to hide from it,” Mayor Hancock told 9Wants to Know. “We know for some reason -- probably the uniqueness of the library - that these individuals are attracted to the library.”
On Friday, the Mayor announced a new city initiative to tackle affordable housing and homelessness. The plan includes a 30 -part list of ideas and pilot programs to help reduce homelessness.
Some of the city’s suggestions online include “develop and pilot foreclosure assistance,” and “improve and expand renter eviction assistance.”
FULL INTERVIEW: Mayor says he wouldn't take his kids to Denver Public Library
The plan does not specifically address drug use and assaults at the Denver downtown library, but the mayor says police are already tackling that problem.
“Our police department is already on it,” the mayor said. “My administration has already had conversations with the library about how do we increase patrols inside the library.”
A spokesperson for the library also told 9Wants to Know that police have agreed to increase patrols inside and outside the building. Police arrested two people for drug related crimes at the library on Friday.
The mayor says that those who are suffering from addiction are turning to the library because the social workers and employees there are helpful and offer more services.
In order to see a dramatic change, he says, individuals need better alternatives.
“How soon can we see an improvement there at the library then?” Jojola asked.
“Well, as soon as we can convince people that there are better opportunities than to be around there,” Hancock said. “But again we are dealing with very sick people.”