ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - Albuquerque police responded to 160 calls for service to downtown's main public library over the course of a year, according to dispatch data.
The calls run the gamut from vandalism and drugs to disturbances and aggravated assaults.
"We do on occasion have problems," city of Albuquerque Director of Libraries Dean Smith said. "We welcome everybody who wants to come to the library. Everybody is welcome to be here so long as they follow the rules and respect others."
Earlier this year, APD conducted an undercover sting due to reports of people using and selling drugs in and outside the library, according to a police report. Officers found a group of three men standing around a lounge table inside the library.
One of the men was seen pulling a purple pouch with heroin inside out of his pants. Officers arrested him for possession of a controlled substance.
APD also responded to another incident of a man who pulled a knife on security guards who were trying to escort him out of the library. Guards told police the man became belligerent when fighting with his ex-girlfriend.
While Smith said many of the calls to police result from customers having medical episodes, he added library officials have had to deal with the occasional drunk person or others who are uncooperative and disruptive.
"When someone does misbehave or are being difficult, that's never a pleasant experience for anybody," Smith said. "We may go as far as having the police give them a criminal no trespass, which says they are not allowed in the building for a certain period of time."
Smith said having a thriving library is vital to the growing downtown neighborhood. He admits the library has had its problems, but Smith said it is certainly not dangerous.
"There are people who are homeless; there are those who are struggling with mental illness," Smith said. "That's true of any location and any group."
Debbie Stover with the Downtown Action Team said the area surrounding the library does see a lot of transients, due to its close proxiimty to the city's main transportation hub. But she said the homeless are not usually the ones who cause the problems.
"We found a guy a couple of weeks ago. He had a pocket full of six fully loaded needles full of heroin ready to sell," Stover said. "There's another element downtown that actually prey on the homeless."
City leaders are trying to clear those people out of the downtown area. The Downtown Action Team hires ambassadors to constantly walk around the library, clean up graffiti and trash and watch for suspicious behavior.
APD also has two officers on full-time walking beats downtown, on top of city security officers who are on hand at the library to respond immediately to threatening or illegal activity.
Parents said they've noticed the efforts.
"There's people loitering around, but there's security right outside, and they do a good job of patrolling the perimeter and everything," parent Linda-Ann Crosby said.
The downtown public library gets around 1,200 visits a day.
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