Hush and calm of libraries broken by 100 acts of crime

Herald Series: Author Tim Pears Author Tim Pears

MAKING a noise in a library is frowned upon but figures today reveal the traditionally quiet book rooms have been the scene of thefts, assaults and public order offences.

Police statistics show that more than 100 crimes have been committed in Oxfordshire’s libraries in the past three years.

Incidents include a sex crime, a racially aggravated assault, and a case of outraging public decency.

But the most common crime is theft which made up 81 of the county’s 106 library crimes between April 2010 and October last year.

Oxford-based author Tim Pears said he was surprised by the figures and felt sorry for the librarians who had to deal with criminals.

He said: “You don’t think of libraries as the kind of places criminals hang out in, but maybe there is a more educated kind of criminal in Oxford.”

But he said: “If they are stealing the books that is terrible, that is a disgrace.”

The author questioned whether the introduction of computers at libraries had attracted more criminals.

But he said it was important libraries remained open to the public, adding: “It is good a library is accessible to everybody otherwise it is going to lose its meaning.

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“So it’s the price you are going to have to pay for having open access. The last thing you would want is security on the door.”

The figures, released under the Freedom of Information Act, show there were 35 library crimes in 2010/11, 32 in 2011/12, and 23 in 2012/13.

But the fall appears to be reversing as from April to October last year there had been 16 crimes recorded.

Other crimes at our libraries include an incidents of harassment and outraging public decency at the Oxford Central Library, a crime under the Computer Misuse Act in Oxford University’s Sackler Library in St John Street, an assault at the historic Bodleian Library in Broad Street, and an attempted burglary at Bury Knowle Library.

Oxford Central Library has had the most crime with 47 incidents reported at the Westgate Centre Oxfordshire County Council facility.

County council spokesman Marcus Mabberley reminded readers to look after their belongings in libraries – as they would anywhere else.

SOME OF THE CRIMES

  • 81 thefts across the libraries
  • Computer misuse in April 2010 at Oxford Universitiy’s Sackler Library
  • Eight incidents of criminal damage
  • Five assaults including one at Summertown Library in September 2010 and one at Oxford Central Library in November 2012
  • Theft of bike from Oxford Central Library in August last year

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