Police called to Columbus-area libraries more than 3,200 times since 2016

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COLUMBUS – If you were to pull the Columbus Metropolitan Library’s own story off the shelf, you’ll find a tale of two realities – one is filled with people who come there to read, learn or conduct research.

And it’s a reality most people associate with the library. But the other reality involves hundreds of calls to police.

Over the past two years, 10 Investigates has found that there have been more than 3,200 calls to police for incidents ranging from shootings to sex crimes, gang fights to drug overdoses.

That’s an average of four calls for service to police every day, based on a 10 Investigates’ review of police runs to Columbus-area libraries dating back to January of 2016.

“We would say that we wish there were no incidents, I think you have to put in the context of the number of visits we have,” said Pat Losinski, CEO of the Columbus Metropolitan Library.

While library officials say those incidents represent only a small portion of the libraries’ daily activities based on an estimated 5 million visitors each year, 10 Investigates has found it is a clear concern that is having an impact on the libraries’ budget.

Losinski says the Columbus Metropolitan Library has spent more than $600,000 upgrading security cameras at each of its branches since October of 2017.

“As a public institution we have tried to take it very seriously. We know as a percentage of staff our security has grown sadly higher than any other department in the library. We think that’s a necessary investment in order to make our libraries as safe and secure as they can be,” Losinski told 10 Investigates during a recent interview. “We spent over $600,000 upgrading the security cameras at all of the existing branches as part of effort to make sure that we are capturing the best images possible.

“We are actually looking at better software tools that capture incidents. The one that we’ve had, we’ve had for a number of years. So, we are really just doing a market survey to figure out what’s out there.”

10 Investigates filed more than a dozen open records request with Columbus Police and area police departments in an effort to understand the scope and scale of crimes reported at area libraries.

The calls for police service ranged from incidents of violence like shootings, assaults and fights, to other serious issues like sex crimes, unattended children and drug overdoses.

Parents interviewed by 10 Investigates had mixed reviews about their library experiences. Almost all said they had positive experiences with the libraries, but many expressed concern about our findings.

Jacqueline White, a mother of two, told us she sometimes visits the Cleveland Ave. branch but admits she tries to avoid it.

“I’ve seen fights, I’ve seen arguments. I’ve even seen kids with guns out here,” she said.

10 investigates has found there were 96 disturbance runs to that location since January of 2016 – including 24 runs for fights.

“I have a 21-year old son and a 17-year old daughter. They do not come to this library at all even though it is in this area,” she said. “I’m scared about what could happen to them if they are in the library.”

Other parents interviewed by 10 Investigates like Wytina Johnson said most of her experiences at the Livingston Avenue Branch have been positive, but she is wary.

The branch experienced a shooting in October of 2017. And the reports of incidents at other branches were of concern to Johnson, including drug overdoses and unattended children.

“I just don’t want my children to be walking into a bathroom and seeing something of that nature. It’s just mind blowing. We just have to be wise,” she said.

Other patrons said their experiences have been mostly positive, which is a relief for Losinski.

“Yeah, it does concern me, but I haven’t seen a lot of that. I think like we’ve been really fortunate in that it’s been very peaceful here.

A library spokesman tells 10 Investigates that security remains “a top priority.” All security camera upgrades should be completed by February 2018.

Here are some examples of the crime reported at central Ohio libraries:

Columbus Metropolitan Main Library – 96. S. Grant Street – A shooting on June 11, 2017 left one person injured. The man survived after being shot in the ankle. It marked the first shooting in the library’s history, according to library officials.

Columbus Metropolitan Hilltop Branch – 511 S. Hague Ave. – There were 456 calls for police between January 1, 2016 and December 15, 2017. Among the most serious issues included a staff member who was assaulted on March 29, 2016; On February 21, 2017 a man was reported to police as looking at porn in his car. There was also a report of a police officer wrestling with a lady at the library on March 8, 2017.

Columbus Metropolitan Livingston Ave. Branch – 3434 E. Livingston – There were 247 calls for police between January 1, 2016 and December 15, 2017. Among the most serious issues included the report of a shooting on October 14, 2017.

Columbus Metropolitan Library Linden Library – 2223 Cleveland Ave. – There were 382 calls for police between January 1, 2016 and December 15, 2017. Among the most serious offenses included a woman suspected of overdosing on heroin on December 1, 2017. Police officers administer a dose of Narcan in an effort to revive her. Paramedics with Columbus Fire arrive a short time later an administer an additional dose. There were also numerous reports of gang fights among teenagers including a call on July 24, 2017 of 50 kids physically fighting.

Columbus Metropolitan Library Driving Park Branch – 1422 E. Livingston Ave. – There were 301 calls for police between January 1, 2016 and December 15, 2017. Among the more serious issues included a man threatening to bomb the building on February 26, 2016. There was also a report of a 13-year old who told a friend that he took a bunch of pills and was trying to kill himself on June 30, 2017.

Columbus Metropolitan Library Parsons Branch – 1113 Parsons Ave. – There were 133 calls for police between January 1, 2016 and December 15, 2017. On November 16, 2017, police responded to a male suspected of overdosing on heroin in the bathroom.

Columbus Metropolitan Library Karl Road Branch – 5590 Karl Rd. – There were 186 calls for police between January 1, 2016 and December 15, 2017. There were 32 disturbances runs to this location in that time period.

Columbus Metropolitan Library Whetstone Library - 3909 N. High Street – There were 93 calls for police between January 1, 2016 and December 15, 2017. There were 10 disturbance runs during this time period.

Columbus Metropolitan Library Franklinton Branch – 1061 W. Town Street – There were 71 calls for police between January 1, 2016 and December 15, 2017. During that time frame, there were 18 disturbance runs and two assault reports.

Columbus Metropolitan Library Northside Library – 1423 N. High Street – There were 61 calls for police between January 1, 2016 and December 15, 2017. During that time frame, there were three assault reports and 14 disturbance calls.

Columbus Metropolitan Library Turner Library – 850 N. Nelson Road – There were 55 calls for police between January 1, 2016 and December 15, 2017.

Gahanna PD (CML) – Gahanna Police were called after a report of a male defecating in the water fountain on December 5, 2017. A police report says the man was not charged but was told to leave. A library spokesman tells 10 Investigates that the water fountain was replaced. On June 30, 2017, police were called after a male was reported to be watching inappropriate videos in the library and children saw the video.

Reynoldsburg PD (CML) – On September 12, 2017, Reynoldsburg Police responded to a report at the Reynoldsburg branch from a woman who said there were four teenage boys in the bathroom that took a picture of her 6-year old while in the bathroom. There was a report of a female who was assaulted on September 16, 2016. A rape report was filed on September 14, 2016, the parents told police their 11-year old daughter was being held down by a male and being touched.

Whitehall PD (CML) – On April 8, 2016, Whitehall Police were called after a 10 and 11-year old child were left unattended at the library. On July 10, 2017 there was a report of a young female who was on Facebook when a male got on her Facebook and repeatedly messaged her asking for nude pictures and sent her nude pictures of himself. On July 31, 2017, there was a report to Whitehall PD that a male touched a female and exposed himself.

Westerville PD – On July 23, 2017, a librarian reported being punched in the head by a 12-year old boy after she told him to quiet down and leave. The victim, through a library spokeswoman, declined by interviewed by 10 Investigates.

Worthington PD – There were 186 calls for police to the Old Worthington Library location between January 1, 2016 and December 15, 2017. Many of these reports were business checks, foot patrol calls or reports of suspicious persons or vehicles.

Bexley PD – On November 9, 2017, an adult male was reportedly exposing himself in the Bexley Public Library. The offender was ordered to leave by library staff and he did so without further incident, according to a police report.

Powell PD – Delaware County Library in Powell, 460 S. Liberty Street – No significant incidents. There was a report of a stolen library laptop on September 14, 2016.

Hilliard PD – 4772 Cemetery Rd. – Numerous runs for disturbance and suspicious people.