Plan to address illegal behavior at San Francisco's main library

A plan to address bad and even violent behavior at SF's main library includes tough new penalties and an increased security force.
April 14, 2014 9:47:18 PM PDT
A plan to address bad and even violent behavior at San Francisco's main library includes tough new penalties and an increased security force.

It opened 18 years ago. And in that time, the state of the art building has been plagued with violence, drug use, and deplorable bathrooms. It's become a magnet for the mentally ill and homeless.

Assigning a fulltime police sergeant to head the library's security force has helped cut down on the number of incidents.

"The people respecting everyone else's right to use that library now is much improved," SFPD Chief Greg Suhr said.

Still, so far this year there have been 700 reported incidents of bad behavior.

San Francisco resident Robert Harris now refuses to take his two grandchildren to the library after they witnessed unruly behavior.

"He was asked to leave, then he went to the third floor to another floor and he started tearing pages of the books and slamming things down," Harris said. "This stuff is happening every day, though."

In January, Mayor Ed Lee sent a letter to the city librarian saying he wants to restore the library to a safe and welcoming place for families, especially with the opening of a new teen center there next year.

"We're going to be welcoming more kids and families to the main branch of the library next year," said Mayor Lee's spokesperson Christine Falvey. "The mayor wanted to see some changes before that opened."

The library commission will consider implementing tougher security measures which include adding two more positions to its current in-house security force of 19 officers. The recommendations also include stronger penalties.

"We're focusing really on the most egregious behavior, behavior that is also illegal or criminal in nature," SF deputy city librarian Michael Lambert said. "So, physical violence, sexual misconduct, exhibiting lewd acts in the library."

Right now, for example, if you brought in a weapon, your library privileges would be suspended for only 30 days. Under the new plan you'd receive a year's suspension.

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