CANTON, Mich. – Students have returned to school following spring break, and for many children, that means they're back to studying in public libraries.
Library professionals and Metro Detroit police officers are reminding the public that while libraries are generally safe places, visitors also have to keep their guard up to avoid becoming victims of crimes.
The Local 4 Defenders examined police reports at Metro Detroit libraries to see what people need to be aware of.
Public libraries are great places to stop and study, with books, resources and rooms for groups of students to work together. It's also a place where people need to keep their guard up, and most parents know that.
"I think you just have to remember that even though the library feels like a safe space, it's still a public place," Clinton Township resident Jennifer Riopelle said. "You have to watch both your children and your belongings."
"Being aware of your surroundings, and then if you have the gut feeling that something is not OK, it's probably not OK," Canton resident Kristin Scheff said.
Some parents drop children off and pick them up a few hours later. If that's the case with your family, the Canton Public Library and Canton Police Department have some advice for parents.
"The Canton Public Library is the busiest single-location library in the state of Michigan," said Eva Davis, director of the Canton Public Library. "We had more than a half a million visitors come to our library in 2017."
Davis said any busy public place will have police calls, but at libraries, it's usually for theft.
"We do encourage people to lock up their belongings," Davis said. "We do encourage them to keep an eye on their things and to not leave their items unattended."
The Defenders pulled police runs to libraries across Metro Detroit and found that common items stolen were computers, cellphones, purses and wallets. Victims' identities were often stolen, as well.
"Anytime there's an open phone, it contains much more of our information," Canton police Sgt. Dan Traylor said. "Many times, it's a direct link to our banking and messaging and those types of things, which can cause the public all kinds of problems in the future."
Outside libraries, common police runs include reports of slashed tires, damaged cars and stolen bicycles.
"These bicycles run in the same price range, you know, $500, $600, $700," Traylor said. "The best thing is the old-fashioned lock, and make sure it's through the frame."
There are also possibilities of a suspicious person report, trespassing reports and reports of lewd or sexual misconduct at libraries. Officials said they see it at public libraries, and it has even happened in Canton.
"This was an individual with a history of sexual deviant behavior in public," Traylor said. "He was going to libraries here in western Wayne County, and Oakland (County) as well, making people feel uncomfortable and moving around. We were able to make an arrest in that case."
Library workers should know what to look out for and be quick to call police when they see something or someone suspicious. But they need visitors to help them.
"They need to find someone who works at that location and say to them, 'I need some help. I need some assistance,'" Davis said.
Parents and children should report anything that makes them uncomfortable to library staff members. Police said it's better to call for help and have them check on something that turns out to be nothing than it is not to call when a predator could be at the library.
"I do think that there are some parents and caregivers who are led into a false sense of security because it's the public library and we're known as a community gathering space," Davis said. "But it's important that they know it's just like any other public place."
If you want to know what's going on at your public library, you can make a Freedom of Information request to the police department. In five days, they will give you a copy of any police reports on file for a small fee.
You can use the following form to make a request: