Increased Safety Efforts Showing Promise at Denver Central Library

Coordinated Approach is Curbing Illegal and Unwanted Activities

Increased Denver Police patrols, additional security cameras and enhanced safety efforts are having a positive effect on security-related incidents at the Denver Central Library. The library this week released information on safety upgrades for its flagship location at 14th and Broadway. The results come after eight months of intense focus on curbing illegal and unwanted behavior in and around the library.

“Our work with the Denver Police Department and agencies throughout the city is beginning to pay off,” said City Librarian Michelle Jeske. “We are seeing positive changes that are making our facilities safer for all as we expand our efforts. We have more work to do and we’re confident we’re on the right track.”

Public libraries across the country are facing similar challenges. “Public libraries are reflections of their communities, which means that things that show up in society eventually find their way into our doors. The issues we’re facing are truly being felt throughout Denver and the rest of the country. It’s time to set an example and find tactics that work for our city.”

By the end of 2016, library administrators noticed an uptick in service calls to 9-1-1 seeking help for undesirable behaviors such as trespassing, overdoses and disturbances. A total of 262 calls were placed to the Denver Police Department in 2016—a 30 percent increase from 2015. Mid-year data from the Denver Police Department shows a 1.53 percent decrease in calls as DPD officers regularly patrol the building and as the city institutes new security measures.

Those new measures include the installation of new HALO cameras, regular patrols by the Denver Police Department, facility modifications, staff training and partnerships with service providers. A full list of items is included below.

Denver Police have stepped up patrols both inside and outside the Central Library, providing 219 hours of service between May 11-June 16. Off-duty officers have also been deployed to the building, putting in 109 hours of time during the same time period (included in the 219-hour total).

As a result of the increased police presence, the Denver Police Department has made 40 arrests at the library January-May, a 33 percent increase from 2016. Current-year data shows 17 arrests for trespassing, six for warrants, four for assault, and six for drug violations.

The biggest response to the library is for trespassing/unwanted persons. The library relies on the police department to remove customers who have been banned for violations of the library’s Use Policy and includes items like harassment, inappropriate behavior or crime. Since Jan. 1, 61 calls have been made for trespassing.

Recent Efforts Build on Ongoing Safety and Security Measures

Library administrators began looking for ways to better serve growing numbers of customers experiencing life challenges, such as addiction, homelessness and poverty, as early as 2015. These efforts were taken while seeking to provide an overall improved environment for all library users. In March of that year, the library hired its first social worker. Today, two social workers and three peer navigators help connect customers with service providers to address behavior before it becomes a problem. The social workers carry security radios to help address and de-escalate questionable behavior.

In October 2016, the library assembled a core team of staff to address concerns about safety and facility upkeep. The group looked at how to engage other City agencies and service providers to quell acute problems as well as seek long-term solutions.

At the same time, the national opioid epidemic began to expand, bringing new challenges to both the library and the City as a whole. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the rate of overdose deaths involving opioids nearly quadrupled since 1999. In February, a 25-year-old man died from an overdose at the Central Library, causing staff to stock Naloxone, an anti-overdose medication, and train employees in its use. The library is one of the first in the country to provide the medication and it has now been used nine times since the first shipment was received in February.

Over the winter months, library officials noticed an increase in loitering and camping outside the Central Library, causing public health concerns. Trash, human waste and needles began appearing outside the location and prompted the Facilities Department to increase custodial staff for daily clean-ups. The library is working with Denver Public Works and the Office of Environmental Health to address facilities needs and public health concerns.

Safety and Security Upgrades at Denver Public Library

Following are specific steps the library is taking to address safety and security concerns:

Citywide Response Team

The library is working with city agencies and other agencies, including: Mayor’s Office, Denver Human Services, Department of Environmental Health, Denver’s Road Home, City Attorney’s Office, Denver Public Works, Harm Reduction Action Center, Denver Street Outreach Collaborative, Office of Behavioral Health Strategies.

  • Coordinated, bi-weekly meeting with city agencies to address issues.
  • Similar response team meeting to look at safety and security for the Golden Triangle Creative District (including Civic Center Park).

Denver Police Presence and Response

  • May 11-June 16 officers spent 219 hours on duty in the Central Library.
  • 40 total arrests from January 1-May 31.
    • Most common arrest types were trespassing (banned customers), warrant, drug violation and assault.

Library Security and Safety Team Increase

  • Four new limited term positions approved; 1.5 FTE request for additional Security Officers pending approvals.
  • Adding two more 20-hour peer navigators (will start in July).
  • Naloxone (Narcan) training for staff. Currently 62 staff are trained, 36 of whom are Security officers. Training continues throughout the system as needed.

HALO Cameras

DPD installed five new HALO (High Activity Location Observation) cameras outside the library. Cameras are now active and monitored by DPD.

Central Library Building Perimeter Changes

  • New signs being installed on the perimeter of the Central Library in July. Signs read: “The Denver Public Library and its grounds are open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Violators subject to arrest or citation for trespass. D.R.M.C. 38-115. Property monitored by video surveillance.”
  • The signs allow for DPD to arrest anyone for trespassing overnight. The signs notify anyone that the area is closed at night and that video surveillance is underway.
  • The library will execute a “Trespass Agreement” with DPD District 6 and designate an employee who would be a witness in any trespassing cases.

DPL Facility Modifications

  • The facilities team is currently replacing 30,000 fluorescent lights in the Central Library as part of a major lighting project. The project is expected to last six months and is being completed with the help of three hires from the Denver Day Works Program. The City and library hire the men to work on the project, which will help reduce energy bills and provide increased lighting throughout the facility. In the first few weeks of the program, many public areas are significantly brighter than the original fluorescent lights.
  • Security cameras (CCTV) are being replaced and expanded in August. Forty-seven existing CCTV cameras will be replaced and 41 new cameras will be added inside and outside the building. Cameras are monitored by the Security department.
  • Shelving height reduction. Working with vendors to obtain costs for replacing high shelving with lower-height shelving to increase sightlines in stacks. This allows security, staff and customers to see across large expanses of areas.
    • Looking to replace 5250-linear-feet of shelving across four floors.
  • 13th Avenue Arcade
    • Meeting with teams from DPD, Public Works and architects to determine short-term and long-term solutions to reduce loitering. Modifications to the building will cost a significant amount of money.
    • DPD District 6 has a specially trained “CPTED” officer who can do a site visit and make recommendations following the Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design principles.
  • Sharps containers have been upgraded in the Central Library to prison-grade (more durable) metal. Fourteen new receptacles were installed in public restrooms.
  • Launched communication campaign to urge customers to report any suspicious activity to a staff member.
  • Cut power to outside electrical outlets to discourage loitering.

Citywide Response Team

  • Public Works began deep cleaning the outside of Central Library in May. Deep cleanings continue weekly.
  • Similar response team meeting to look at safety and security for the Golden Triangle Creative District (including Civic Center Park).
  • Sharps handling training for custodial staff.
  • Frontline staff awareness training for sharps/needle, bodily fluids and bloodborne pathogen control and disposal.