National News

Police, ambulances called 900 times to downtown library since 2015

Posted July 28

— A review of 911 calls and computer assisted dispatch reports show Metro police and emergency responders were called to the downtown library 900 times since 2015, resulting in criminal investigations into assault, theft and sexual battery.

The News 4 I-Team's review of the calls shows in many of the crimes, homeless people were either victims or were charged.

Our review comes as the library was named the very best in the nation.

On July 20, members of the I-Team spent the day inside and outside the library, documenting how a homeless man was rushed into an ambulance and how an intoxicated homeless man was drinking openly in a library courtyard while children walked by to enter.

The I-Team also obtained 911 calls that reveal everything from security at the library calling for help for a woman passed out in the men's bathroom, to people reporting fights and beatings.

The court file on one of the assaults contained surveillance video from outside the library that shows a man pick up a broom handle and beat another man with it.

Our review found more than 30 reports of theft, and an ongoing case of sexual battery.

George Boone was charged with sexual battery, after a library patron got on the elevator and claimed that Boone groped her.

In the affidavit, Boone is accused of saying to the woman, "I hope the next time you get on the elevator the lights turn off so I can do what I want."

Boone's attorney did not return our call for comment.

In his criminal court records, Boone is described as homeless.

Andrea Fanta, communications manager for the downtown library, agreed to answer our questions on camera.

"Parents will see this story. They will see that some serious crimes have been committed here at the library. When you look at the crimes that are committed, how do say then that this a safe place?" the I-Team asked.

"We take the isolated events that have occurred seriously. The first thing I would say to these parents is that these are isolated incidents," Fanta said.

Incidents that our review showed were often committed by the homeless, who not only find relief in the park directly across the street but also in the air conditioned, clean comforts of the library itself.

In some bathroom, signs are displayed that read "No bathing, shaving or washing clothes."

"If the library wasn't here, I don't know where I'd be," said Clarence, a homeless man who spoke at length with the I-Team about his reliance on the library for survival.

Clarence also acknowledging that he once had his headphones stolen inside the library. He said he knows to always sit in front of the security cameras inside the library.

"You have to know where to position yourself inside that building and be able to see where those cameras are," Clarence said.

"Do you see a future where you see a library where you have to limit who comes in or take steps to have greater security here?" the I-Team asked.

"No," Fanta said, noting that what is seen at the downtown library can be seen in any major community center.

"People who are experiencing poverty and homelessness are part of this city, which makes them part of Nashville public library," Fanta said.

It then falls to security to not only keep readers safe, but also save lives.

One 911 call shows a security guard calling for help when they cannot awaken a woman.

"Is she still unconscious?" the 911 director asked.

"Yes ma'am," the guard replied.

During the day the I-Team spent at the library, we witnessed almost constant patrols of security inside.

For perspective, Fanta pointed out that roughly 2400 people use the library everyday, so the 900 overall number is small in comparison.

Fanta also reviewed the same data analyzed by the I-Team, and said hundreds of the incidents happened outside the hours of the library, thus indicating the crimes occurred just outside the library or in the parking garage.

Our review did find many of the crimes occur in the parking garage attached to the library, which is not owned or operated by the library itself.

If patrons violate the library's code of conduct, they can be suspended for a year. Currently, 72 people are suspended for a year from the library.

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