KINGSPORT, Tenn. - Local police are stepping up patrols near a public library and park because of a growing problem with loitering, panhandlers and the homeless.
"Any public library in a downtown area has issues with behavior," said Helen Whittaker, the Kingsport Public Library manager.
Police said the issues had become worse over the past three to four months at the library and the Glen Bruce Park. "They can occasionally become places for folks that don't have anywhere else to go," said Capt. Jason Bellamy.
Although the library has had security guards for 10 years and cameras inside the library, police are increasing patrols because of the number of complains about people panhandling, making rude comments and loitering. "Public drunkenness is a common issue, vagrancy in the park and occasionally some of the folks would harass the patrons at the library," Bellamy said.
There were also arrests made for indecent exposure. "We can't allow that type of behavior in this space because we get so many children and parents," Whittaker said.
Bellamy said these types of problems come with the territory in Kingsport since there are homeless shelters nearby that close during the day. "Those particular shelters have the folks leave for a period of time so they can do what they have to do like prepare meals and housekeeping," he said.
However, Whittaker said it's not uncommon for the homeless and jobless to be in the library utilizing the online resources. "We have a lot of services for the homeless and ways to help them, but they have to behave when they're in here like anyone else." She also said she's worried about mental health issues and substance abuse problems. "It's not a homeless problem, it's a behavior problem."
The library, police and Department of Parks and Recreation are working together to make some security changes to the park including possibly adding outside cameras.
Police said they don't believe there isn't a major safety issue, rather more of a public nuisance.