A number of break-ins, acts of vandalism and targeting of security staff in recent weeks have left libraries counting the cost, especially in terms of the services available to communities.
The City’s Library and Information Service recorded several break ins over the past few weeks.
Criminals targeted at least seven libraries. While final damage assessments are still pending, initial estimates point to losses of more than R100 000.
“The continued theft and vandalism at our libraries is worrying as criminals show no respect for their community and municipal services. Vandalism has a domino effect as it could take months to repair the damage and to get all the services back in operation. The net result is limited or no access to safe study spaces for our patrons, but while also robbing them of opportunities to use the internet facilities at our libraries,” said the City’s MayCo Member for Community Services and Health, Zahid Badroodien.
Delft South Library
Thieves stole burglar bars as well as the library signage. In addition, damage is being caused to the outer walls of the facility by persons making fires against the building.
The library also had its air condition system stolen. The units were enclosed with steel cages and highly visible to surrounding properties, but that did not stop the criminals.
The library was broken into and cables linked to the air conditioning system were stolen, which required replacement and installation repair work of more than R20 000.
At this library, the entire fence was stolen. The cost of replacing the fence is approximately R72 000. In addition, the barbed wire was also stolen and the building’s roof gutters were damaged by people climbing onto the roof.
The Library and Information Service reported the following incidents in recent weeks:
The library experienced several break-ins last year. In one of the latest incidents on 13 February 2021, a security guard was stabbed twice while trying to defend himself. The suspects tried to break into the security guard’s vehicle parked in front of the building.
Suider Strand Library
The library building burned down at the end of February, and the insurance payments amounted to R14,5 million, which included the building, library materials and furniture.
And in its already damaged state, during the early hours of 15 March 2021, criminals returned to the facility. Our security officers were held at gun point by five male suspects. They were kept hostage for about 45 minutes in the kitchen. The suspects took a fridge, loose scrap and broke a tap in the kitchen. Initial assessments indicated a replacement value of R4 600.
The library was recently broken into over a weekend when thieves removed the burglar bars, smashed the windows and stole a desktop valued at R7 000. Final damage assessments for the broken windows and burglar bars must still be submitted.
During two separate occasions last week, thieves gained access through a window and stole a number of small items. Fortunately, they were not able to gain access to the main section of the library. The theft was reported to SAPS as well as the City’s Law Enforcement Department. Their fingerprints were taken.
Vandalism of libraries goes much further than the criminal offence of destruction of council property or breaking and entering. It has a far reaching effect, as some libraries that experience vandalism or break-ins need to be closed to the public depending on the nature of the damage, and could take months before being reopened.
“We have also seen some instances where libraries were vandalised for no apparent reason – where nothing was stolen. It does not make sense to break down a facility that provides important services to the community. We would like to once again request our communities and Neighbourhood Watches to be on the lookout for any suspicious behavior at community libraries and to report it immediately,” Badroodien said. “Criminals will continue their senseless acts of destruction until they are brought to book. The vandals live in the very communities that they are stripping bare, and they will not stop until they are held accountable for their actions. We need the community to help identify these culprits and save our precious resources.”
The City appeals to anyone who has information to come forward and report it to the police. The City of Cape Town is offering a R5 000 reward for information that leads to the successful arrest or conviction of perpetrators.