Hundreds of criminal activities reported at Miami-Dade libraries in past 6 months
Sexual misconduct, theft, vandalism among activities reported at 49 branches
MIAMI – Records show more than 430 incidents of criminal activity, theft, vandalism, disturbances, sexual misconduct and children being left alone inside Miami-Dade County's public libraries in the past six months.
Local 10 News investigative reporter Jeff Weinsier spent weeks reviewing hundreds of incident reports generated from inside the county's 49 public library branches.
All of the reports are authored by librarians who are often the the target of verbal abuse.
"Bad behavior is effectively dealt with," said Wil Fowler. "They are removed. They are evicted."
Fowler is a former police officer and is currently the full-time director of security and safety for the library system.
Records show in May, two men were caught having oral sex in the bathroom in Main Library.
When confronted, one of them argued that there were no signs any where prohibiting it.
At the Hispanic Library branch at 1398 SW First St., records show blood, used needles and other drug paraphernalia were discovered discarded in a bathroom stall.
There are also several cases in several different library branches of men caught masturbating in the stacks. There are multiple reports of fighting and people watching pornography on library computers.
Records show when a fight broke out at the main library, a man pulled out a machete with a 14-inch blade.
There is also a report of a man caught shaving his genitals with an electric razor out in the open and he refused to leave.
"Every librarian and staff member received training in awareness, vigilance and generally dealing with the public," said Fowler.
Miami-Dade County has surveillance cameras in everyone of the 49 branches.
Once a week, librarians are required get on the Florida Department of Law Enforcement sex offender web site and become familiar with the registered sex offenders and predators within a 2-mile radius of their library branch.
Meanwhile, the Miami-Dade Public Library System has seven full-time security guards.
Nine people have been permanently evicted from the library system for bad behavior. Twelve people are on a weekly or monthly suspension.
Among the reports, Local 10 News also discovered 13 cases of children being left alone.
At the Homestead branch, a 4-year-old was found wandering with no adult around. And at the Culmer/Overtown branch, another 4-year-old was spotted alone.
"We are vigilant," said Fowler. "We do address it when we see it. We contact families, guardians and, when all else fails, we do involve the police," said Fowler.
Fowler adds that 3 million visitors walked through the doors and enjoyed the library during the same period.
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