The Stoke Public Library has recently been put under scrutiny due to 43 incidents that have taken place there between January 2016 and December 2017 involving youth behaving in an intimidating and threatening manner towards library staff and the public.
Factors identified as contributing to this behaviour include poor design of the library and surrounds in terms of crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED), attraction of the free Wi-Fi, available shelter and the lack of suitable alternative youth facilities in the Stoke area.
Based upon a Nelson City Council NCC Security Report published January 2018, the NCC and the library have taken action to combat this issue, by employing a security guard to work during after-school hours in conjunction with contracting youth workers.
Most recently, the youth workers have been from Te Piki Oranga and according to Group Manager of Community Services Chris Ward, trespass notices have been issued where individuals have posed a significant risk to public safety. The NCC is also upgrading the closed circuit TV in the library and planter boxes have been installed to alter the way people move around the library entrance.
“Staff’s main concerns are for the safety of library users. Youth workers have been a big help too, by engaging with the young people. They are supportive of each other, and library staff are pleased to have a security guard and these youth workers present at the library,” Mr Ward said, speaking on behalf of the library staff.
“If I had a message to send out to the community, it would be this: If you treat your youth with disrespect, they will treat you with disrespect. It is a two-way relationship. As a community we need to understand that youth are our future leaders and therefore, they should be actively involved in our community,” cultural advisor from Te Piki Oranga Sonny Alesana commented.
“Isolating youth from buildings and venues will not work. We need to include them. We really need a space in Stoke that becomes theirs and that they become owners of and look after. I think that is really important,” Mr Alesana continued.
Another key user of the library is the senior citizen community due to the proximity of several aged care facilities in Stoke. However, not all older library users have had any trouble. Senior citizen Marie Holmes visits the library on a weekly basis and has had no trouble with anyone there. “I’ve never seen anything as long as I’ve been going. I’ve never once thought of not going there, however I don’t visit the library during after-school hours,” she said.
The NCC have committed to continue to monitor public safety and are working with other agencies in Stoke to look at youth issues. The Stoke police have additionally been supportive in dealing with any problems and have suggested the new Green Meadows Centre currently under construction may well provide a venue to alleviate the pressure placed on the library facility.
By Year 10 English student Aleisha Smith