Residents inconvenienced as criminals target library

Over the past 16 months, Tafelsig library has been burgled five times – and the most recent break-in will set them back R22 000 to replace IT equipment only.

According to JP Smith, mayoral committee member for safety and security; and social services, the thieves gained access to the library through the roof on Thursday April 20 and made off with the SmartCape computer processing units and keyboards.

Mr Smith said the library had been broken into three times this year, and twice last year.

He said in January last year the SmartCape computers were stolen and then in April the cables were stolen.

He said the SmartCape system finally came back online on in January this year when fibre was installed – but then there was another break-in in April.

“We are still awaiting quotations for the roof damage. The equipment will be replaced by the Information Systems and Technology Department,” Mr Smith said.

When questioned about security measures at Tafelsig library, Mr Smith said it had an alarm system linked to the City’s centralised control room.

“Prior to April 20, the library has had day security guarding service. And since April 20, the library has had 24-hour security,” he said.

Tafelsig resident Mary Abrahams said she was upset about the frequent break-ins at the library.

“The library benefits our community in many ways, so it is sad to see that people break it down. It is our own community breaking into the library depriving people of empowering themselves.

“We are hoping that the City implements stronger security measures and that the community speaks up with information,” she said.

Another Tafelsig resident, Marcellino Petersen, said he visited the library weekly, to read books, newspapers and use the internet facilities. “The library is very useful in our area, you find your young and old there. At the library you can sit in a quiet environment to do your research and make photocopies of important documents.

“The break-ins are frustrating because this now means that I have to travel to Town Centre library, whereas this library is in walking distance,” he said.

Mr Smith added that Tafelsig library was being renovated and would be closed until July. “This is part of the scheduled maintenance programme of the Library and Information Services Department. The maintenance includes painting the interior and exterior, the replacement of carpets and tiling. And the toilets and kitchen will be upgraded.

“The library’s renovations will result in an improved appearance and experience for patrons and staff, as well as improved building security,” he said.

The total cost of renovations is about R630 000.

In a recent media release, Mr Smith said since July last year, libraries and clinics had submitted 118 insurance claims totalling nearly R800 000. This was as a result of theft, malicious damage to property, and burglaries.

“Of the claims at clinics, only 12 percent were the result of accidental damage like burst geysers and pipes,” he said.

Mr Smith added that the vandalism of community facilities disrupted not only important services but also had an impact on staff and community morale.

“It leaves the City in the position where we have to stall new developments and improvements planned for our clinics and libraries because we’re having to divert funds to fix and replace vandalised or stolen infrastructure.

“At our libraries, the theft of cables and computers can often leave a community without access to SmartCape services, and therefore the worldwide web, for months.

“The delay in regaining connection is particularly long in cases where the Telkom cables are stolen,” he said.

Mr Smith said many people relied on library computers and free internet services to look for jobs and for correspondence learning, and the lack of connection had a massive impact on their lives.

“We are rolling out broadband infrastructure to our libraries as quickly as possible in the hope that it will reduce the risk of cable theft in future,” he said.