‘Inappropriate acts’ at Dover library reported

DOVER — The interior of the Dover Public Library is a vast area where it can be difficult to track where some bad behavior might be taking place.

That is of extreme concern to Matt Lindell, a Dover city councilman who represents the 1st District, who said he has heard of some inappropriate activities that have occurred over the past couple of months at the library.

Mr. Lindell is concerned that library patrons, particularly children, should not be exposed to such activities when going to the library to read or participate in one of the facility’s programs.

“Some of the issues include inappropriate activities that no child or law-abiding, tax-paying citizen should have to witness or put up with inside a public city building,” Mr. Lindell said.

“As a parent and a teacher, this issue is extremely concerning to me. I have a four-year-old daughter and some of the accounts that have been reported are incidents that no parent should have to try to explain to a child who could innocently end up witnessing these inappropriate acts.”

Mr. Lindell did not specify what the “inappropriate acts” that took place were.

However, he will be bringing the library safety issue up at Tuesday night’s Council Committee of the Whole meeting inside council chambers at City Hall at 6, during the Safety Advisory and Transportation Committee segment.

“As a young child, I remember some of my most positive experiences in early learning came from services offered by my community’s local public library,” said Mr. Lindell. “We owe it to our children, the community and the dedicated staff to provide a safe environment so that they may take advantage of creating their own memories from our library’s wealth of resources and programs.”

Master Cpl. Mark Hoffman, spokesman for the Dover Police Department, said that there have been 68 total calls for service to the police involving the library this year for a wide variety of issues. More than 20 of those calls stemmed from property checks.

The library is a popular haven for the city’s homeless population, many of whom take up residence inside the library throughout the daytime hours.

Margie Cyr, the director of the library, said the facility does have its occasional issues, but would not put the problems directly on the homeless population.

“We do occasionally have people inside the building that behave badly,” Ms. Cyr said. “We do have an acceptable behavior policy. Any person that violates that is asked to leave the library. You cannot just say it’s directed solely to the homeless.

“I really don’t see safety as being a big issue at the library. I understand that Councilman Lindell has asked for this conversation at the council level, but I have not.”

Mr. Lindell said he is just looking at ways to improve the safety of the library’s patrons.

“If one is there to use the library for its intended purposes and programs, great,” he said. “If one is there to detract from the library’s purpose and programming and/or commit acts that are destructive to the facility, overall atmosphere and experience of law-abiding patrons, then those individuals need to be removed without delay.”

The Dover Police Department does try to regularly provide a cadet to staff the library. However, that has been difficult lately because the city has been short on cadets.

“We do have occasional problems, but they’re not every day,” said Ms. Cyr. “The presence of cadets goes a long way towards making that better. Our regular schedule of cadet presence does not cover all of the hours the library is open.”

Fred Neil, a councilman for the 3rd District, believes perception can be different from reality when it comes to feeling safe in the library.

“I have indirectly heard, particularly from donors who have made building the library possible, of their concerns,” Mr. Neil said.
“Undoubtedly, it deals with a very human situation, the homeless who are attracted to the library as someplace to go to during the day. Therefore, handling the perception of danger is a delicate matter.

“Personally, I have attended events, movies and concerts at the library and have never felt threatened or uncomfortable, but I understand how other patrons could. No one has specifically told me of their concerns.”

Mr. Neil said he believes any issue that might exist can be solved with having a regular cadet presence inside the library, though he also acknowledged that the city is currently understaffed when it comes to cadets, saying “Our cadet program is so successful, other police departments are plucking our graduate cadets.”

“Another solution could be resolved by the Mayor’s Task Force on the Homeless, a very difficult task because the City Charter does not provide for the health and social programs which must come into play, but which relies on cooperation from agencies outside the city,” he said.

“As for the children, knowing the library staff as I do, I think they would put themselves in danger to protect the kids if necessary. I hope it never happens.”

The children are the No. 1 issue why Mr. Lindell said it’s time to start a conversation regarding safety issues at the library.

“We have an excellent library staff who offer excellent programs for citizens of all ages; however, we need to restore the public’s confidence and expectation that the library is a community building which needs to be treated appropriately by all its patrons,” Mr. Lindell said.

“While we have hired cadets to help deal with issues in the library, there are gaps in coverage and enforcement. I believe we need to step up enforcement and enforce the rules and ordinances on the books.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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