Library adding security officer
By Kelly Corbett
Published in News on January 16, 2012 1:46 PM
As of Friday, an off-duty police officer will monitor Steele Memorial Library for a few hours per day to help crack down on security after two more break-ins occurred the first week of January and to prevent noise disruptions during business hours.
The cost of placing an officer in the library is being split by the town of Mount Olive and Wayne County and will amount to time and a half or about $18 per hour for an officer with a $28,000 salary.
The two recent break-ins, on Jan. 5 and Jan. 6, bring the total to eight at the library since 2010.
In the most recent incidents, a brick was thrown through a window to gain entry and $25 cash was taken from the money drawer. The next day, someone entered through the broken window and stole DVDs from the library.
County Library Director Donna Phillips said the break-ins have been frustrating to library officials, the town of Mount Olive and the Mount Olive Police Department.
"The town manager, Charles Brown, and county manager, Lee Smith, have been working together and have been working on a trial basis on placing off-duty police officers in the library to get a handle on the situation," Ms. Phillips said.
She said the recent incidents have caused a "disruption in service" and one main concern is that the thefts are happening more frequently.
"The police in Mount Olive have been very responsive and have stepped up to the plate," Ms. Phillips said. "We've been happy to have their quick response."
Four security cameras with 24-hour surveillance were installed at the library last summer and the library is able to make copies of the video recordings.
The town of Mount Olive owns the library building, placing the cost of the damage from the thefts at the town's expense.
"It just baffles us why that particular place keeps getting hit," Brown said.
He said the town has increased surveillance and it costs the town $350 each time someone breaks a window, but he said he feels confident that the authorities will be able to apprehend the individuals responsible for the break-ins.
He said the officer is also at the library to help prevent any "undesirable activity," which might occur due to the amount of traffic coming in and out of the library.
"That's a very small library," Brown said. "It's very busy. We're just trying to make sure we don't have an issue over there. We want to be absolutely sure that we don't have a problem."
He said he does not personally know of any evidence or reports of undesirable activity.
Police Chief Brian Rhodes said an officer will be placed in the library at different times of the day Monday through Saturday.
"The break-ins don't have anything to do with placing an officer in the library," Rhodes said.
He said the request from the library is a result of "people being loud, obnoxious" and "not following the library rules."
"We've been talking about it for about a month, but the official request came in last week," Rhodes said Thursday.
Ms. Phillips said she met with Smith on Jan. 5, when the ultimate decision was made to put an officer in the library after speaking about how there is already security in the Goldsboro branch after school hours.
"We have had some instances where patrons' behavior has made others in the library uncomfortable," Ms. Phillips said in an e-mail Friday. "Our goal is to provide an environment in the library where all are welcomed and accommodated and at the same time where patrons are respectful of others. We believe having the off-duty officer will help us reinforce those expectations."
The library currently has a behavior policy in place, which Mount Olive Branch Manager Sharon Michie enforces, Ms. Phillips said.
"It makes the staff feel safer that if they do have to address some behavior that they have some police there," Ms. Phillips said. "I don't want my employees to feel unsafe, and I certainly don't want the public to feel unsafe."
The library is in the process of relocating into the old Belk building at the corner of Chestnut and Main Street downtown.
"As part of the project design, we will have alarm and security," Ms. Phillips said.
Lynn Williams, member of the board of directors for the Wayne County Public Library System, said the board had not met as of Thursday to discuss the most recent break-ins.
"It is a very frustrating thing to have it happen over and over again," Mrs. Williams said. "I know that the town and the police department are working very diligently to see if they can catch who it is."