Security screening at Winnipeg library reducing crime, says manager
The manager of Winnipeg’s libraries says since security screening was introduced at the downtown facility, 911 calls have dropped and staff feel safer at work.
In April, the Standing Policy Committee on Protection, Community Services and Parks had asked the Winnipeg Public Service to consider alternatives to keep the library safe and report back in 120 days.
On Wednesday, Ed Cuddy, the manager of library services, gave the committee a update after 60 days, where he described shocking incidents that had taken place at the Millennium Library before the screening began.
He said a machete fight once broke out on the fourth floor; a computer was thrown at a worker; and ammunition was found in a washroom. He also said the library was being used as a recruiting ground for gangs.
“Anyone who worked or spent any time there would have seen the police or fire paramedic service visiting several times a week, often several times a day,” Cuddy said.
Cuddy said a number of other measures were taken over the years to address the issue, such as added security guards, an online reporting system and staff training, but those were temporary solutions that didn’t fix the problem long-term.
Since mandatory bag checks and metal detectors started, Cuddy said police are no longer responding to the library on a regular basis and workers and visitors are telling him the space is much safer.
“It was a difficult decision to make but we felt we have a legal responsibility to keep our staff safe, to provide a safe and welcoming space and that’s what we did,” he said.
However, a group called ‘Millennium for All’ has been vocal about the screening since the beginning, calling it invasive and targeting marginalized groups.
Spokesperson Sarah Broad said she’s glad she was told why screening was necessary, but she still wants it to end.
“I’m very concerned that this will now extend to other public spaces,” Broad said. “These are not appropriate responses.”
The group held a protest Tuesday and has plans to hold more demonstrations in the future.
Cuddy said he and other board members have been taking recommendations from the public.
Some modifications to the new safety protocol have already been made – people carrying weapons for personal protection, or covered needles, will no longer have these items confiscated by security guards. Anyone carrying those prohibited items now have the option to check them at the door and retrieve them before leaving the library.
WATCH: Downtown library security a work in progress
Cuddy said prior to security screening, needles were showing up in public washrooms or the children’s area. Now, those needles are prevented from being brought in altogether, or are safely stored, returned and removed from the library.
Cuddy added that any items deemed to be illegal will still be confiscated.
In an effort to gather more recommendations, Cuddy said he’ll be making connections with community agencies and will also be sending a survey out to Canadian public libraries.
Cuddy is expected to appear before the committee at City Hall again in September once the final report is ready.
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