Library stabbing in Denver provokes questions

Rocky Mountain News Reports a stabbing over the weekend outside a restroom at the Denver Public Library's flagship downtown branch has raised concern over security and the decline in the number of full-time guards assigned to the building.

A 60-year-old homeless man was recovering Monday from being stabbed in the neck during an attack inside the Denver Central Library on Saturday afternoon.


I'm having problems trying to accept that term. Anyone else?

It seems to me that the problem is the failure of the criminal justice system to appropriately deal with Mr. Johnson.

While minor transgressions can initially be dealt with minimally as the number of violations of the law and their seriousness increases so must their punishment increase proportionally?

If Mr. Johnson had been jailed for a significant period after his June trespass arrests he would not have been in the library to stab patrons. While I am not advocating life terms for misdemeanants, a six-month sentence for this recidivist would have served several purposes.

It would have removed from the community, albeit temporarily, someone who cannot follow societies rules. More importantly I would have served as a portal to the mental health system through which Mr. Johnson's apparent underlying mental health problems could be diagnosed and managed. This entry treatment could have been made a condition of his release, at least for a short time to give him the opportunity of leading a more traditional stable life, rather than his life of homelessness.

Most importantly it would have removed him from the library so he could not re-enact an episode of Bum Fights and stick a shiv in another guy's neck.

Yes, I know some people will not continue with mental health treatment begun in jail, yes I know some people like to be homeless and it is a choice for them, but after being given a chance, or several chances in Mr. Johnson's case it is safe to say that he is a continuing danger to society and increase the penalties each time he crosses the line. I doubt he will spend his life in jail as most of the homeless persons with whom I have come in contact with while I spent over a decade in an urban ER die a terrible death often succumbing to the drugs they use to occupy their time, or by the violence and trauma so commonplace in their lives.

Jailing Mr. Johnson after his second or third minor arrest and providing treatment can offer him a better life, and the community a more productive member.

Not enforcing the law, but relying on the patchwork of community, governmental, and social services agencies to serve as a Band-Aid on society's severed head does a disservice to Mr. Johnson, the library, the community, and the man with the knife in his neck.

I struggle with "does admin care" or "do they not want to deal with it" They sit in the cozy offices and can't imagine that it is as bad as library staff says. They don't know what to do about safety, so they don't want to hear about it.
Before I started working in a public library, I never would have believed how angry and abusive patrons are on a daily basis. Administration expects us to cater to their every need not realizing the extent of patron demands. Patrons don't understand that their taxes dollars don't cover unlimited computer time, materials for as long as they want, and reference research for their dissertation.
Patrons complain, admin expect staff to apologize. It is hard to be a good public servant when I have to start every interaction wondering if this is the patron who is going to yell at me today. The cycle is demoralizing. Admin thinks hostile patrons show up once in a while, instead of every day.

On another note: what can be done to prevent this? My opinion would be more security personnel. Metal detectors would not do any good, if they are ignored the same way security gates are at our branch. Supportive admin staff who are willing to call the police on staff behalf would be a start.

I had a death threat once and my supervisor didn't want to call the police because he didn't want to make waves. He threatened to blow up the building just like Oklahoma.Sheesh!I called the cops. They did nothing but at least I called them.

Good for you, but I'm female, small, and although I fear nothing, the chip on my shoulder will only get me so far...

Administration is nice and safe upstairs in their offices. My experiences are that they are willing to do anything (at staff's expense) to make sure they don't anger the public.

I had a manager that insisted that if a patron needed something, that a staff member MUST stay in the library with him/her after closing until they were finished. Alone. You gotta be kidding me. Like they won't take advantage of that situation. I flat out refused to do so. Our hours were posted, and had been the same for years. We were open 63 hours a week, that's more than enough. Not to mention the fact that staff were often on a schedule to pick up kids at babysitters, etc.

I have had these same experiences, and this is one of several reasons I got out of public libraries. I'm tired of being threatened with bodily harm, then told by the administration I should apologize to the patron.

Heh, I think we've worked at the same place. In one instance, after a patron got in my face because I told him he couldn't be behind the desk, a supervisor told me I should have approached the situation with more calmness and neutrality.

I asked him, nicely and politely, to leave from behind the desk because only staff are permitted behind the desk. Then the man got... in... my... face... I explained, calmly and neutrally, to said supervisor that when they get in my face they are no longer threatening a library employee, they are threatening me. When they threaten me I need to defend myself, not the integrity of the library. I'm more interested in defending the integrity of my face.

Also note that I'm a man, I'm pretty well built, and I'm fairly young. If they'll threaten me, what will they do to a female? Does admin really think they care?

I have had these same experiences, and this is one of several reasons I got out of public libraries. I'm tired of being threatened with bodily harm, then told by the administration I should apologize to the patron.

Here I go with way too much thought on the topic. :-)
Yeah, it's kind of weird, but upon reading the sentence again, the library commissioner may have been referring more to the setting that the reason for the fight. Then again, road rage refers to the road--or driving on it--as being a cause of people's rage. I don't think anybody naturally thinks of the perusal of book stacks as rage-inducing. This situation sounds like homeless crazy guy rage.

I can't speak for "book rage" too much, though I have had people get pretty angry when they realize we had the audacity to check the book they want out to someone else who got here first.

However I can speak for "card rage." We require a piece of picture ID and proof of address to get a card. I've had more people angry over this than anything else, including overdues. Less than a week ago I had some guy in my face, almost behind my desk, telling me to "step outside." All because I wouldn't give him a card since he had no picture ID.

I mean, what?

It's not like a library card is the most important thing in the world and worth going to jail or getting hurt over. The thing is, this was the sixth time this year I've had someone attempt to physically intimidate me. Since this is August, that works out to slightly less than once a month.

I can't say that I'm particularly happy with it. But my main issue is because they cite no reason for the attack and then coin a phrase to describe a non-existent motive. What is that about? Probably just trying to get a snappy sound bite.

If they had been scuffling over How to Win Friends and Influence People or Machiavelli's The Prince, then it might make sense.

Library commissioner Edward Schenck: "We need to take another look at our procedures to make sure the library is safe. These days with methamphetamines and cocaine and all of the stuff people can get, libraries and museums can get a different kind of clientele. Road rage can turn into book rage.

What an ineffably stupid fool!

The message being sent by this article is basically that criminal activity will automagically stop when we finally have everybody being watched by someone else assigned to him or her for their lifetime.

Aside from that, there is no such thing as road (this/that/whatever/fill-in-the-blank) rage; it's a bullshit buzzword made up by reactionaries who will not take the time to understand, but who prefer to slap easy labels on things to promote their own agenda.

Crime is not caused by a lack of rent-a-cops or even a lack of real cops. There are more American citizens locked up in jail, proportionally speaking, than for any other country, and you still have crime.


Subscribe to Comments for "Library stabbing in Denver provokes questions"