Essex library may give bodycams to staff after librarian assaulted

Colchester Library
Colchester Library -Credit:Google

Staff at an Essex library are considering wearing bodycams for protection after a string of abuse, vandalism and even physical assault. The measures are being considered at Colchester Library after staff logged 54 incidents of anti-social behaviour over the last three months.

The repeated behaviour by groups of youths culminated in an assault on a librarian which was investigated by Essex Police, County Hall has said. Other incidents have involved vandalised facilities, verbal abuse towards staff, books thrown around the library and shouting in quiet reading areas.

The library has since hired a security guard and is working with Essex County Council’s Youth Services and Colchester City Council’s Street Care and Safety Team, who patrol the premises. Colchester Business Against Crime (COLBAC) identified some of the young people displaying anti-social behaviour in other parts of the city from CCTV footage provided by local businesses.

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Mark Durham, councillor responsible for the arts, heritage and culture at Essex County Council, said: “It is completely unacceptable that our dedicated staff at Colchester Library should have to face verbal abuse, vandalism and now assault simply by going to work.

“Libraries are places of learning which people should always feel safe to visit. This includes families, the elderly and vulnerable residents, many of whom take part in activities, classes and clubs organised at our libraries. We will work tirelessly with library staff, Colchester City Council, Essex Police and COLBAC to put a stop to these incidents.”

David King, Leader of Colchester City Council, said: “Colchester City Council fully supports Essex County Council's efforts to tackle anti-social behaviour at Colchester Library. I commend the library staff for their dedication and professionalism in the face of sometimes challenging circumstances.

“We are committed to ensuring a safe and welcoming environment for library staff and visitors of all ages. Our Street Care & Safety Team is working closely with the county council and Essex Police to explore all available options to deter anti-social behaviour and protect library staff.

“While the decision on body cameras rests with Essex County Council, I would welcome them and any other CCTV action that helps us identify offenders. We also aim to work with the police, schools and parents to put a stop to unacceptable behaviour. This will ensure Colchester Library can be enjoyed as a great resource and safe community space.”

Chief Inspector Colin Cox, Colchester District Commander at Essex Police, said: “We are aware and have been acting on reports of a group of youths causing persistent issues at Colchester Library. We have a dedicated city centre team who are aware of this issue and in response will carry out regular patrols taking in and including the library, to deter further incidents and identify those causing significant disruption.

“We will continue to work with partners, including Essex County Council, COLBAC and Colchester Business Improvement District (BID) to make sure we’re responding to issues where they arise and dedicating resources to where they are needed. One of our main focuses in Colchester is on tackling anti-social behaviour, and we’re seeing a sustained fall in offences in recent years.

“But we know there are occasions, usually attributable to a specific group, where issues arise and it is really important we continue to build cases against persistent offenders and monitor where we are seeing consistent reports coming in to us.”