Burien About to Install Security Cameras Around Downtown Library

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A Burien Police car sits in front of the library/city hall building on Jan. 27, signaling an increased police presence there once again after a near fight in the lobby the previous day.

by Ralph Nichols

A confrontation in late January, involving a large group of young males, threatened to break into a fight in the main lobby of the Burien Library/City Hall building – read our breaking coverage of that here.

The next day, Burien Police again increased their presence in and around the library and unruly, sometimes threatening, behavior by some visitors in their teens and early 20s again decreased.

Just two weeks earlier, shortly before closing time on a Friday evening, the elevator was shut down because someone had urinated in it – not the first time such an incident had occurred.

Behavior problems among some young people at the Burien Library are nothing new. Minor acts of vandalism, including destruction of raised letters on lobby information signs, began almost as soon as the new building opened in June 2009 and have continued since.

Although staff has placed Rules of Conduct of the King County Library System (KCLS) in the Burien Library, the 8½ x 11-inch signs are neither designed nor located to command attention. Across the top, they say only “Courtesy.” There is no large type, easy to read from a few feet away, stating this is a list of expected behaviors by all library patrons.

The inconspicuous signs are found on the top row of Library Announcements – well above eye level – that are posted in the lobby next to the library entrance; by dictionaries at the end of a first-floor table where patrons reserve computer time and access the KCLS catalog; and with another sign on a small shelf, facing the second-floor librarian’s desk, at the end of a book rack.

And those rules, which sometimes go unenforced, are even harder to find on the system’s website. After going to www.kcls.org, one must click on “Using the Library,” then on “Library Policies” and then on “Using Library Facilities” before scrolling down to “Rules of Conduct.”

Another sign, posted out of the way on a wall in the first-floor side room with a copying machine for public use, lists Parental Responsibilities.

Patron Privacy vs. Public Safety
The Burien Library is not the only KCLS facility where the security of its patrons – perceived and real – has been downplayed by staff.

Following an incident at the Woodmont Library in Des Moines last spring, senior KCLS staff declared that patron privacy trumped patron safety (read our coverage of that incident here).

An elderly patron had been assaulted and robbed in the Woodmont parking lot, but when Des Moines Police requested the video tape from a parking lot security camera they were refused. Police obtained a court order for the tape – then quickly made an arrest.

KCLS officials said later their mission is to protect the intellectual privacy of their patrons – even in public places like parking lots and lobbies – and that they rely on police for the safety of patrons and staff.

In fact, the KCLS proceeded to remove security cameras from the 10 county libraries that had them. The Burien Library was not one of those.

Enough is Enough
In the wake of this most recent incident at the Burien Library, which posed a possible threat to public safety, the city decided to act unilaterally to improve security there.

Burien City Manager Mike Martin told The B-Town Blog Feb. 23 that security cameras are expected to be installed around the exterior of the building within the next couple of weeks.

The $49,561 cost of the cameras and installation will be paid with federal funds from a $150,000 Department of Justice police technology grant received by the city in 2009.

Additional security cameras next will be installed in the lobby, elevator and stairwells. Martin said he expects there will be enough money in the grant to cover that, but the city will be able to cover the costs of the inside cameras from the general fund if necessary.

“The idea is to have coverage of all trouble spots,” Martin said. “As we know from the incident, one of the trouble spots was the lobby.” Burien police will monitor the security cameras.

The library neither hires a private security service nor pays for the increased police presence there, and will not be asked by the city to help pay for the cameras.

“We’re a partner with the library in the building,” Martin added. KCLS was told that security cameras would be installed but it was not asked for approval to do it.

Dramatic Safety Upgrade
With the increased police presence, behavior problems at the Burien Library again have subsided during the past month. Yet city police officers can’t be there all time.

The security cameras “will give us complete coverage all around the building,” said Burien Police Sgt. Henry McLauchlan. “The safety value is going to be dramatic.”

But, McLauchlan emphasized, the cameras “will not intrude into the library” and compromise patron privacy.

But “if there is a problem” in the lobby, elevators or stairwells or outside the building, “we will have a record of it,” he said.

“We hope the cameras encourage them to have better behavior. With the number of calls we get, the number of complaints, and the number of problems, we’re taking advantage of technology to help us reduce them.”

McLauchlan added that “things have improved by again projecting an increased police presence at the library. But it’s still a gathering place for a lot of people, and this will help us monitor and better identify the problem children.”

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9 Responses to “Burien About to Install Security Cameras Around Downtown Library”
  1. Local Yokal says:

    This problem at the town square has been no mystery to those of us who frequent the library. Nor has it been for the police or city hall. It is unfortunate that a few can have such an effect on so many. We must stand together in the face of all of this. I would encourage the good to make clowns out of the few.

    If you are retired or have free time from 1:30 pm – 8:00 pm come down to the town square and film these kids behaving how they do. It is amazing what goes on down here every day. Lets put those videos on public access and you tube. Let’s call these parents out. Lets shame them into getting control over their kids. This stops when we make it stop. We cannot continue to expect the police and city hall to come up with more and more expensive ways to baby sit. Those options restrict our freedoms.

    We know who these kids are, their teachers know who they are, the police know who they are. Cal them out. Stand up for the majority. The decent people of Burien need to come out and say no more its out of hand and we are not going to stand for it.

    Its not up to the police. Its up to us.

  2. areyouserious says:

    It’s a shame that signs and cameras are expected to inform and enforce behavior that should be taught at home.

  3. Feral dog says:

    I`m with you areyouserious, so many kids nowadays just aren`t taught how to respect
    people or property. Unfortunately it`s everybody else that ends up paying for it one way or another. Just like the parents who ALMOST always take their kids side even when they are clearly in the wrong like that mom last week that got on the news saying how the school went to far suspending her son for getting drunk and drinking on the bus of a School ski trip. It`s parents like that who`s kids end up never learning responsibility
    I say hats off to the school for enforcing their rules.

  4. Futurehope says:

    I like the idea of people with character and morals in our town standing up to and “calling out” the lame parents (some of whom are drug addicts) along with their unfortunate immature misbehaving teen-babies. The YouTube postings are an interesting idea. I am sick and tired of people not respecting the community’s shared resources, buildings and landmarks (the wrecked fountain which had to be removed ). I think going forward, council meeting nights should increasingly be a forum for standing together and voicing opinion on this.

  5. Emily says:

    Thank you, Mr. Nichols, for your ongoing coverage of the sad state of affairs at the Burien Library. The city’s choice to install security cameras is certainly a step in the right direction, and will certainly help identify criminal behavior outside the library. But until KCLS’ Rules of Conduct and Parental Responsibility policies are displayed prominently, enforced consistently, and vigorously, publicly endorsed and supported by KCLS’ Administration and Board of Directors, nothing will change inside.

    • areyouserious says:

      Amen to that. No one is held accountable anymore. That’s the problem. There is always a way out for the whiners and losers.

  6. J W says:

    It’s a shame – that money could be spent on more books.

  7. Jon says:

    The taxpayers need to make sure they do not support any levy put forward by the King County Library System until the library decides to treat the citizens of Burien like we matter. The library system has the most bountiful budget in our area as far as government goes. Yet they are too afraid to see the problem and acknowledge it and take ownership of the fact that they created an environment with no rules and said “Come one come all” and the taxpayers in Burien will fund our errors. I would like to see the Library Board of Directors and executives come down and see the elderly taxpayers turned away by some thugs who wouldn’t even know how to hold a book upright and read it. I think the taxpayers should know this stuff when they are being hit up for more money the next time around. And when the library doesn’t get their funds then they will change their ways. Trust me, the thugs are not voting. WE ARE though.

    • areyouserious says:

      I completely agree with you. I’ve seen way too much going on up there and when I complained, the library said it was a public place, so they weren’t going to do anything.
      The last straw for me was when I heard a young teen tell a police officer to f&&& off when he asked him to stop skate boarding outside the library.

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