Denver’s main public library is increasing security and considering plans to remodel in an effort to clear out drug use after a 9Wants to Know investigation revealed a drastic increase in overdoses, assaults and complaints in and outside the library.
Officers have made at least 19 arrests since the first 9Wants to Know report on May 16, most of which were related to drug use or trespassing.
911 call data shows that more people called for help at the library in May than in any other month in the last 3 years. The majority of all calls are related to medical problems, including falls and trouble breathing. Of those criminal offenses, drug use and trespassing remain the biggest concern.
Library records show that police dedicated over 200 hours of on-duty patrol in the Central Library and another 100 hours off-duty.
"I think it's more of a deterrent than anything,” said City Librarian Michelle Jeske. “They're very visible in the building. I think that makes staff feel comfortable and I think it has also pushed people out who were not partaking in the best the activities."
The library is also hiring four more security guards and two more peer navigators whose jobs will be to help connect those who have an addiction or need help with housing.
The library has already trained 62 members of their staff to administer naloxone, an anti-overdose nasal spray. Since the beginning of the year, library staff has used the drug nine times to prevent potentially fatal overdoses.
"It is not a public library problem - which I think you know,” Jeske said. “It's a public health problem which shows up in public places."
To help keep those drugs off the library’s campus -- the city also allocated funding for more security cameras in and outside the building and is considering a plan to change the shelves and remodel to decrease the number of hiding spaces that drug users frequent.
“We don't want people selling drugs in the library, we don't want to see them using drugs in the library,” Jeske said. “It is against our library use policy...and when we see it, we will stop it."
Overall, Jeske says that she and other library staff have seen improvements over the last month, and believe the increased security, police presence and public awareness has helped make the library more safe.
“I think with my own observation and talking to staff, we have noticed a remarkable difference in security incidents that we see in the building,” Jeske said.