Bangor Public Library faces unprecedented rise in crime

BANGOR, Maine (WABI) – Since the beginning of the year, the Bangor Public Library has had to repeatedly call the police to deal with people who commit crimes on library grounds.

It comes as the city has seen a reduction in some of the services that were available to homeless people.

“There have been a lot more people behaving inappropriately,” said Ben Treat, director of the Bangor Public Library.

“The type of calls we are facing are frustrating, a bit shocking for us to answer these type of calls inside the library. It seems a bit foreign to us, so something we are certainly not not used to,” said Sgt. Wade Betters, Bangor Police Department.

In January and February, Bangor Police had to respond to the library 38 times.

“Everything from fights, to drug overdoses, to drug possession, some drug dealing, some drug dealing that seems to be happening in the open inside the library. We also had sex-type crimes, public sex in the restroom, suspicion of prostitution,” Betters said.

Officials told TV5 that the increase in such cases at the library followed the closure of a nearby daytime warming shelter and the end of funding that used the Ramada Inn.

“I think there’s a higher level of homeless people in the library clearly during the day, and I think we all know a lot of them are dealing with significant addiction issues, mental health issues and which often occur at the same time. time. It is therefore a demanding population. So, I’m not surprised there’s that number,” Bangor Town Manager Debbie Laurie said.

Organizations working with this population to try to find a way forward visit the library several times a week.

“Having people come here because they are fleeing a dangerous situation at home. They don’t have their social security card. They don’t have their identity card. They’re going through bureaucracy to rebuild their lives, and they’re not here to cause trouble,” Treat said. “Like we had 40 people here at any given time who are homeless, I guess it was probably three, four or five people who are, you know, a group of people who are causing trouble, and we have to respond to these three, four or five people.

He adds that they have recently become stricter in their policies prohibiting access to land.

“That’s about one person a week that we had to ask out or tell out for a year,” Treat said.

“I never want anyone to come into the library and say, wow, that’s a crowd I just don’t want to be with. We have to, every time we see behavior that’s not acceptable, we have to keep telling those people that they have to go,” Treat said.

The city manager and the police department say they will work with the library to find a solution. We asked if hiring a full-time officer was an option.

“Having a permanent presence of a police officer here, I think, would not necessarily be the right presence. It’s not something we seek to do,” Treat said.

“We fight a lot to hire and retain police officers, so even if there was a desire to do that, we should actually find an officer and hire an officer, then,” Laurie said.

For now, the library has surveillance cameras which it will continue to use and will ask its current staff to be more diligent in monitoring things.

“The best thing we can do is have a real presence in all the spaces we need to be to make sure it doesn’t feel like an open space for someone to do this stuff,” Treat said. .

Copyright 2022 WABI. All rights reserved.

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