Enumclaw library concerns involve city, police and district

The Enumclaw police suggested the library remove this short, concrete wall and the seating area it encloses, because its intended use has been redirected to a concealed area for fights, drug use, drinking, loitering and sleeping. Photo by Ray Still.

Ongoing concerns about sketchy behavior in and around the Enumclaw library have swirled through local government circles, culminating in meetings involving the mayor, law enforcement and the King County Library District.

The immediate result? Some concerns are being addressed, other issues are being studied and at least one has been pushed to the back burner.

Conversations about library behavior reached their peak in January when City Councilman Hoke Overland raised the issue during a public session. That prompted Mayor Liz Reynolds to meet with Police Chief Jim Zoll and three of his officers and that sparked a written list of concerns from the department.

Reynolds shared those concerns with King County Library District staff during a meeting of the Enumclaw Library Board and later received a status report from Jenny Engstrom, the KCLS director of library operations. The entities work cooperatively since KCLS operates the library, while the city owns the building and the land it sits on.

Reynolds shared her library report during the March 13 gathering of the City Council, offering both police concerns and suggestions, along with KCLS responses contained in a letter from Engstrom.

• Police suggested removal of a short, concrete wall and the seating area it encloses. It is on the southwest corner of the building, bordering on the parking lot. “Its intended use has been redirected to a concealed area for fights, drug use, drinking, loitering and sleeping,” police wrote.

KCLS was not particularly responsive to the idea for a couple of reasons.

The district’s facilities director has noted the demolition work would likely cost thousands of dollars, money that was not included in the 2017 budget. It also was noted the seating area is enjoyed by the community and used by library staff.

The KCLS response left open the possibility of looking at the suggestion again in a few months.

• Police suggested library staff remove people who use the building only as a warm and dry place to sleep.

“What they may not understand is that they have created a safe space for people’s drug and alcohol usage,” police wrote. Police turned the heat up a notch, writing that library staff’s “total lack of cooperation with police is widespread knowledge among the folks who use drugs and alcohol, who don’t want to be bothered.”

KCLS replied that its adopted Code of Conduct does not prohibit sleeping in district libraries. Staff only deviates from that policy if a disturbance is being caused.

Change could be on the horizon, however. The district has a Code of Conduct Committee which recently studied the approach to sleeping, Engstrom’s letter said, “and library administration is currently evaluating whether we make a change to how this is managed by staff.”

• On a related note, police said library staff could do a much better job of reporting criminal activity.

“It has been made clear to us that the library staff has taken a ‘hands off’ approach to reporting criminal activity/crimes,” police wrote. “They have failed to call or cooperate with police on harassment incidents, hit and run, drug use/activity, alcohol violations, assault calls and found property calls.”

The bottom line, police said, was that some residents do not feel safe when visiting the library.

The library district was responsive to those concerns. It was noted that staff will be encouraged to call police if they view anything suspicious and be willing to call on behalf of citizens who express concerns. It also was noted ongoing efforts will be made to assure staff enforces the district’s Code of Conduct.

• Police asked if the district could turn off its Wi-Fi capability when the library is closed. While internet access may not seem like a police issue to most, there is undesirable side effect, police say. “We have contacted subjects utilizing the library Wi-Fi to view pornographic websites while they sit in their vehicles,” police wrote.

On this count, the library district was both agreeable and quick to respond. Action should already have been taken to disable the Wi-Fi from 9:10 p.m. to 9 a.m. daily.

• In a suggested move that would give officers more authority, police asked that “no trespassing” signs be installed that would prohibit people from being on the grounds when the library is closed. The reason: “The Library has become a hangout and meeting point for several known subjects who engage in criminal activity,” police wrote.

The district agreed to have an employee meet with city police to work on an after-hours agreement, “which may include posting signs.”