Security tightens at downtown library
Bag checks, metal detectors coming later this month
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 15/02/2019 (1502 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Users of the downtown Millennium Library will be subject to several new security screening measures, more commonly seen at airports and sporting facilities.
City hall announced Friday that effective Feb. 25, all visitors to the Donald Street library will undergo bag checks and be subjected to a hand-held metal detector sweep for alcohol and prohibited weapons. Visitors who refuse to participate will be barred from entering the library.
“The number of incidents (has) increased in the past four to five years, incidences involving violence, threats, alcohol, substance abuse and it was concerning. We met with police and our security contractor. After discussing, we came up with this course of action,” Ed Cuddy, manager of library services, told reporters. “We feel it’s a big change, but we feel it’s justified based on the kind of incidents we’ve been experiencing recently.”
Cuddy wouldn’t elaborate on the nature of the incidents, but did say library workers have not been the victims.
The security checks will be conducted by staff from a private security firm, which currently provides security for the downtown library.
The city said alternative entry options will be provided to some groups, such as preschool students.
Cuddy said small children accompanied by their parents will not be subject to the screening measures, but children aged 13 years and older will be screened by security guards.
A spokeswoman for the Winnipeg Police Service declined to comment on the new measures or confirm its officers were consulted.
The union that represents library staff applauds the move and says it’s long overdue.
“We think this is a good move for the safety of our members,” Gord Delbridge, president of CUPE Local 500, told the Free Press. “There have been safety concerns by our staff for a number of years.”
Delbridge said there have been incidents at the downtown library that justify this move, but he refused to say if staff or users have been hurt, assaulted or threatened.
“Everyone deserves to go to work safe and come home safe at the end of the day,” Delbridge said. “This is a good step in the right direction. This is going to help, for sure.”
Some library users approached by the Free Press said they’ve heard and seen fights and confrontations in the library. One user said he witnessed a drug deal in the men’s room.
Some people said the new measures might make some people feel uncomfortable but others will be reassured.
Tim Jaskow, who regularly visits the library, said he never felt threatened there but added his large size might be intimidating to other people.
“There are surveillance cameras everywhere and if you go to an event at Bell MTS Place, you’ll go through the same procedures,” Jaskow said. “If this keeps out the people who don’t belong here, then that’s a good thing.”
Coun. Ross Eadie, a member of council’s community services committee, which oversees library services, said he recognizes there are concerns in the downtown area with individuals dealing with mental health and addiction issues, but added the need for heightened security measures was never brought to the committee’s attention.
But Eadie said he’ll support the move, “to ensure staff and customers are safe.”
Other members of the committee — including its chairwoman, Coun. Sherri Rollins — did not respond to a request for an interview.
Cuddy repeatedly insisted the screening measures are voluntary, but acknowledged anyone who refuses to be screened will not be allowed entry.
“I don’t want to debate semantics with you,” Cuddy told the Free Press. “If you wish to visit the library here at Millennium, you will undergo the screening.
“(Security) would never be forcing someone to do a screening — they would be asking them,” he said. “But if you refuse, you won’t be allowed entrance into the library.”
Cuddy estimated the cost of the new measures would be about $30,000, adding, however, that the funds have not been approved in the library’s 2019 budget (which has not yet been tabled or approved by council) and the move wasn’t brought to the attention of city council or the community services committee.
“We’re using what (funds) we have,” Cuddy said, adding that the library’s lending materials budget will not be affected. “It’s not an issue that went through the political process. It went through senior administration. The decision to do this wasn’t something that needed council approval.”
Updated on Saturday, February 16, 2019 7:25 AM CST: Final