Serious incidents down 65% since library security screening started, but so is attendance City to continue measures despite opposition from residents
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 03/09/2019 (1375 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The controversial security screening at the downtown Millennium Library will remain if library management has its way.
A report on the airport-like security measures implemented in February blames the provincial government for failing to deal with a range of social, economic and mental health issues that it says makes the security screening necessary and concludes it won’t be lifted until the province takes the appropriate action.
But to counter-act the groundswell of opposition to the screening, library management is recommending a series of moves that are designed to deal with the social problems.
“Community Services looks forward to a time when the screening measures are no longer required at Millennium Library,” states the report, authored by library services manager Ed Cuddy, which will be presented at the Sept. 9 meeting of council’s protection, community service and parks committee.
The report notes there has been a marked decline in the number of serious incidents since the introduction of the security screening. The number of incidents during the four months prior to the introduction of screening (November 2018-February 2019) totalled 230, while there were 81 incidents reported during the following four months (March-June 2019), a decline of 64.8 per cent.
The report said the number of intoxicated incidents declined 68.8 per cent, when comparing the first six months of 2019 to the same period in 2018.
‘We also plan on using our best library shushing techniques if management’s report contains any of the prejudice and lies their last presentation included’ – protest group Millennium For All on Facebook
Meanwhile, a community group opposed to the new security measure is planning to present its own report to the councillors and is urging supporters to attend the Sept. 9 meeting for what it’s calling a “shush-in.”
Millennium For All, which was formed to pressure city hall to stop the security screening, said on its Facebook page it expects the library report will be justification to support the continuation of the security screening.
“We also plan on using our best library shushing techniques if management’s report contains any of the prejudice and lies their last presentation included,” the group states.
Millennium For All is credited with pressuring councillors to direct the administration to prepare a report that considers alternatives to security screening and reviewing how other municipalities have dealt with the socio-economic issues.
Local residents created the advocacy group in response to the Library management’s surprise announcement in mid-February that all patrons 15 years of age and older would be subject to bag searches and hand-held metal detection sweeps.
The security move has been supported by police and CUPE 500, which represents library staff, but it generated a backlash from some elements of the public which demanded the measures be ended.The move caught even members of the committee by surprise. There had been no reports to the committee during the previous five years of any concerns over public and employee safety and councillors on the committee were not advised ahead of time of the implementation of the security measures.
When library management cited escalating violence to justify the screening, Millennium For All said a review of the police data revealed that library management had exaggerated the threats of violence and said that rather escalating, the incidents of violence fluctuated from year to year.
Cuddy maintains in his report that an increase in violent acts in and around the library, along with threats to staff and patrons, prompted the security screening, a move that he said had been recommended by the Winnipeg Police Service and the firm contracted to provide security services to the library branch.
Cuddy said the library is not equipped to deal with the socio-economic issues that afflicts many downtown and inner city residents.
“The root causes driving the increase in incidents at Millennium Library and in the downtown community are beyond the mandate or capacity of the Public Service alone to solve,” Cuddy said, singling out substance abuse, crime, unemployment homelessness and poverty. “The direction for such an initiative must come from the Province of Manitoba – the agency responsible for addressing any gap in social services. While Library Services may be part of the solution, we are not trained, funded or mandated to ‘solve’ the overall impact of these issues on the public space at the library.”
The report recommends a series of initiatives, totalling $671,000, be considered in the 2020-2023 budget process:
Cuddy’s report notes that since the security screening was put in place, both attendance and borrowing has declined at the Millennium branch.
However, Cuddy cites surveys that show the move is supported by a majority of library staff and the public.
The report notes that other urban libraries across the country have experienced a similar increase in violent acts and crimes but notes Winnipeg is the only library in the country to have put security screening in place.