With warning signs of increased crime at the Waukesha Public Library, the Waukesha Common Council is allowing library staff to hire security guards to monitor activity through the rest of the summer.
The funding wasn’t in the library’s budget, so the council unanimously voted Tuesday night to pay almost $8,000 for the security guards from the city’s contingency fund.
The library has had security guards during the school year, but not during the summer.
“In addition to a safe place for people coming in to use the library, I think we owe it to the employees of the library to make sure that we provide a safe work environment,” said Alderman Andy Reiland.
A nonscientific poll on Waukesha Patch showed as of 8 p.m. Tuesday that 90 percent of people taking the poll supported the library spending $7,920 to keep the security personnel throughout the summer. The Waukesha Public Library was named Library of the Year in 2011.
“This is a building that we need to keep safe,” said Joe Pieper, Finance Committee chairman and council president.
Library Director Grant Lynch said the library would like to be proactive and maintain the security level, citing the increased security and drug-related incidents. Additionally, more children will be coming into the library this summer as the reading program is about to hit record numbers.
“There is not a whole lot we can do if we don’t have a safe and secure facility,” Lynch said.
Alderman Duane Paulson noted what he considered a key word from a presentation from Lynch and that is "minor." Paulson said the library's safe and maintaining the security staffing levels will help ensure it remains that way.
Alderwoman Joan Francoeur echoed his comments when she said that the council's action was "to make sure that the environment remains as safe as it is."
Library Not Immune to Heroin Increase in City
Officers are on target to have a record number of calls at the library, according to Police Capt. Ron Tischer. The library has not been immune to the influx of heroin in Waukesha during the recent years. Gang activity plays into the problems as well, according to Tischer.
“The criminals and drug dealers like to go where it is cool, too,” Tischer said when asked why the library is seeing increased criminal behavior.
“It is an easy for people to have a central meeting point,” he added. “We try to break up those little groups when they start forming.”
The Waukesha Police Department has done some proactive measures by having undercover officers walk through the library and even had the Waukesha County Sheriff’s Department’s K-9 Unit do a sweep of the library.
"If people don’t feel safe at the library, they won’t go there,” Tischer said. “It is such a gem in the city that we can’t afford to let that happen. We would love to have an officer there all the time, but we don’t have the manpower to let that happen.”