Millennium Library security uncovers knives, screwdrivers, bullets


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Security staff at Millennium Library seized 198 items from patrons, including knives and bullets, during the four weeks metal detectors have been erected, just as attendance has dropped.

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Security staff at Millennium Library seized 198 items from patrons, including knives and bullets, during the four weeks metal detectors have been erected, just as attendance has dropped.

“It looks like it’s working to keep some weapons out,” said Coun. John Orlikow, chairman of community services.

The city shut down the library on Dec. 11 in response to the fatal stabbing of 28-year-old Tyree Cayer during a dispute on the main floor. Four teenage boys have been charged. The incident rocked library staff, and their union noted it had repeatedly warned the city about weapons being taken into the building and the potential for violence.

As officials grappled with the idea of enhancing security, the city began letting patrons pick up and return reserved material as of Dec. 23, while browsing for books and other library services resumed on Jan. 23.

The January reopening was paired with a series of temporary added security measures, including a walk-through metal detector, four additional security guards and two on-site uniformed police officers.

Screeners found six pocket knives, 43 other knives, 43 bullets, 42 pairs of scissors and 41 tools, from Jan. 23 to Feb. 19.

Nail clippers, screwdrivers, a corkscrew, a hammer and other items were relinquished by library users. The list does not count items carried by people who decided not to enter the library once they were discovered.

Orlikow stressed it’s too soon to determine which security measures should become permanent. He said he’d prefer to wait for the results of a security audit of the library. GardaWorld Corp. has been hired to conduct that audit, which the city said would be expedited.

Orlikow said other measures could be considered to ensure the library is safe, while the full impact of added security on library patrons must be considered.

Meanwhile, the number of daily library visits has declined, though limited comparison data is available.

Average daily attendance fell to 701 in January 2023 from 1,326 in January 2022. So far this month, there have been 997 average daily visits, compared with 1,405 in February 2022.

In December, there were 12,689 visits. One month earlier, the number of visits was 51,551.

Opponents of the heightened security at the library have noted it has coincided with a drop in attendance in the past, when the city imposed hand-held metal detector scans and bag searches from 2019 to 2020. That triggered a backlash, with some arguing the measures violated privacy rights and created a barrier to using the facility. The extra security measures were removed during COVID-19 pandemic closures.

A member of Millennium for All, which opposes the extra screening, said the seizure of weapons does nothing to address the true causes of violence.

“Confiscating these things does nothing to address the roots of escalation or provide any tools for de-escalating potential incidents. It doesn’t tell us anything about the climate of safety or unsafety at the library. It doesn’t address the things that we actually know make the library less safe, like dangerous levels of understaffing and the lack of community connections or service spaces (to connect people with social supports) in the library,” said Bronwyn Dobchuk-Land. “These items that are being confiscated don’t tell us anything about behaviour or safety.”

Dobchuk-Land said adding more library staff, support services and specialized security staff who are trained in community outreach would be much more effective.

Coun. Sherri Rollins said she’ll wait for the library security audit to determine which long-term changes the facility needs.

However, she believes a broad approach is required to improve safety in and beyond the downtown library.

“I have a particular point of view of what might help, i.e. a broader mental health discussion and really addressing poverty and housing first,” said Rollins.

Twitter: @joyanne_pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga

Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.

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