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Libraries request more money for security due to increased violent incidents

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Natanya Friedheim/Civil Beat
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The Hawaiʻi State Library is requesting an additional $1 million to beef up security at public libraries.

In written testimony before a State Senate Ways and Means Committee meeting last week, the Office of the State Librarian says there has been a rise in violent and destructive behavior inside and outside public libraries.

"Verbal abuse, pulling knives, spitting, throwing and destruction of library laptops, physical assault on staff as they leave work, and keying of staff cars are just a few examples of behavior our staff are dealing with now. Unfortunately, these are not one-time occurrences; the frequency and intensity of the behavior has been disturbing."

Incidents also happen during off-hours.

According to the library's testimony, "In some locations, our staff are arriving to work where human waste has been smeared on staff doors, broken windows, and garbage everywhere. We have had stabbings after hours in our parking lot and an attempted kidnapping by knifepoint while our staff were inside the building."

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After those incidents, police have been called and asked if they had security cameras to identify suspects. With the requested additional money, $150,000 would go to more security personnel and $850,000 would be to install security systems such as cameras in 11 libraries.

Aldrich has said she has discussed security improvements with state comptroller Curt Otaguro.

The Department of Accounting and General Services is looking at contracting for security guards across state departments, versus individual contracts.

“I think we could get better security companies if we had one contract. And we could leverage those resources for consistent service across the state. We continue to have problems with our current security guard company," Aldrich said during the hearing.

The library's current security contract is with Star Protection Agency.

"In six months, we had over 123 incidents where we did not have a security guard and in some of our libraries, we have to have a security guard. And for the company that we have been working with, a lot of times it's because they have staffing shortages. But we must have security to help keep our spaces clean and safe for folks.”

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