‘Around Denver’s Central Library, crime and no punishment’

See the editorial in the Denver Post here. Copied below in its entirety:

By

Denver’s flagship Central Library needs some love and attention. And soon.

Regular users know this. Sadly, those who regularly walk or drive by the famous Michael Graves structure at the edge of Civic Center know it also. Now that 9News investigators went undercover to record stomach-turning videos of crowds of street people and the homeless sprawled along the grand arcade — some of them shooting up heroin — the depressing fact has been vividly documented for the world to see.

Reporter Jeremy Jojola reports that emergency calls for fights and sexual assaults are spiking at the library.  Also worrisome is that, while there were no calls for overdoses during the first four months of last year, there were 44 this year.

The findings showcase Denver’s overall problem with opioid addiction, a problem not isolated to our city. Not only does it challenge users of the library, it drains money from library budgets. As City Librarian Michelle Jeske tells us, the library is shifting resources that could be spent beefing up library staff to hiring additional security forces and equipment meant to protect it.

“I’m horrified by it,” Jeske told Jojola. “And I’m sad for those people who have that drug addiction at the same time.”

The report horrifies us as well. Count us as fans of the library’s mission.

What a shame it would be if one of the city’s crown jewels were left to its own defenses, and to the degradation that we’ve seen in so many other areas, like the 16th Street Mall and the Cherry Creek trail. While Jeske is right to add security personnel and equipment, her guards aren’t empowered to make arrests. And banning bad actors, which the library does, is but a Band-Aid solution.

City Hall and the Denver Police Department must step up protection of this valuable resource. While the massive building is no doubt difficult to patrol, its public areas are hardly as welcoming to illegal actors as the above-mentioned outdoor amenities. It’s time for a crackdown, with a visible and undercover police presence in the area around the library, the Denver Art Museum, and, as always, Civic Center.

Hancock’s spokeswoman, Amber Miller, tells us that police will upgrade patrols. Miller rightly notes that the real problem is the dealers and pimps who move among the addicted and the struggling. Police should make them feel completely unwelcome.

A critical point that all of us should keep top-of-mind as officials work to bring order to this situation: The mission of the library and the city is to serve all members of the public. A backlash of negativity would be a regrettable and unhelpful result indeed. The Denver Public Library helps those down on their luck. Its many resources and experts offer those in poverty with the means to improve their education and skills and find jobs. Social workers among the stacks guide those with mental illnesses and addiction to assistance.

That mission isn’t just altruistic, it is also the law. Advocates for the homeless vigorously pursue legal challenges when rights and freedoms are curtailed.

We get it that addressing the problem won’t be easy, and in some ways can never be solved. But making the library safe, for both the downtrodden and the comfortable, is what residents of a great city should expect, and deserve.

(Editor’s note: Editorial page editor Chuck Plunkett, a member of The Denver Post’s editorial board, is married to a Denver Public Library official.)

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This is what happens when you bow down to the Lowest Common Denominator of humanity, who do NOT care about DCL’s “many resources and experts” any more than they care about being clean and sober or practicing good hygiene. The BUMS have NO respect for themselves, NO respect for others, and NO respect for any community they happen to be in at the moment.

And it’s NOT the law! So-called homeless advocates file frivolous lawsuits all the time, and gain NOTHING in the process except the media attention they crave. So, let ’em! The City of Denver has many attorneys on staff drawing salaries, anyway.

There’s a valuable lesson here for the City of Boulder . . .

— MRW 

(E-mailed to Boulder City Council)

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