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Full-time armed security guards stationed at Antioch public library to discourage crime

Antioch Community Library reopens with armed guards over crime concerns
Antioch Community Library reopens with armed guards over crime concerns 03:43

The library in Antioch reopened Tuesday after being abruptly closed last week over security concerns. Contra Costa County says it is now necessary to have full-time armed guards at a place where knowledge is offered for free.  

William Simpson understands the value of a library.  

"Anything you want to know in this entire world is right here," Simpson said.  

As he waited for the doors to open at the Antioch Community Library, he admitted that recent developments at the library have him struggling to understand the modern world.

"I got bored staying at home," Simpson explained. "So I called them up. And my daughter said, 'Oh, they're closed down.' I says, 'Why?' She says, 'There's a lot of crime. The crime rate over there, people breaking into cars and things like that.' I said, 'Wow, I've never heard anything about it!' I can't believe that! I'm 86 years old, and when I went to the library, it was nothing like this!"

The library was abruptly closed on Friday because it was deemed to be unsafe for staff and visitors.

"There were threats to staff and library property," said county library spokesperson Brooke Converse. "There was damage to staff and library property, multiple times, including things being set on fire. There have been multiple incidents of people having sexual intercourse inside and outside the library, in full view of patrons and staff."

Officials shut the library down for the weekend to arrange for more security. There was a show of force on Tuesday when it came time to reopen. Multiple armed guards stood outside, with private patrol cars in the parking lot.  

It's the first time a branch was closed due to safety issues, so there were questions from the city about why all the complaints hadn't been reported to police. Mayor Lamar Hernandez-Thorpe sent a letter to the county that read, "According to our city administration, no one in the City of Antioch, including the police chief, were informed of any safety concerns by Contra Costa County regarding the library."

"In some of the instances, the staff did call the police. And in some instances the security calls the police," said Converse. "So, yes, in some of the times they were aware of the situations."

Tachina Garrett, a community activist who frequents the library, said she could understand the staff's concerns about what was happening.

"Absolutely. Absolutely. And that comes with, 'Hey, call the police.'  But I'm finding out that there's no trace of any of that," said Garrett. "So for them to be able to just shut it down overnight and not say anything, it just seemed really odd."

Garrett said the library is important to an underserved community and believes it shouldn't be so easily shut down. Over in one corner of the library as she worked on a word puzzle, Martha Cunningham was also puzzled about what the world is coming to.

"It's...this world...they just don't love each other like they used to," she said sadly. "They just love themselves, most people do, now."

The library has employed a guard inside for years, but now there will also be someone full time watching the parking lot and carrying a gun. In addition to the added security officer, the county says they plan to repair the outside fencing to prevent walkthroughs and buy a new set of surveillance cameras  

Meanwhile, a place that contains "anything you want to know in this entire world" has no answers about why all this should be necessary.

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