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College students tackle library safety issues
community policing report
A group of Stanislaus State community policing students found a number of safety concerns at the Turlock Library. - photo by NATALIE WINTERS/The Journal

Security concerns at the Turlock Public Library and Turlock Senior Center led a group of 14 Stanislaus State Criminal Justice students to work closely with the Turlock Police Department and library staff to find solutions that if implemented will make the area safer for everyone.

Some of the issues that the group found troublesome at the library and senior center location included excess trash, people camping on the roof and leaving behind personal items, transients loitering around property after hours and graffiti in the bathrooms.

 “We want to clean the library up to get rid of trash and make it safer for everyone,” said Ashley Connolly, student group leader for the project. “We’ve been accused of trying to get rid of the homeless people and that’s not what we want to do. We just want it safe… they’re climbing walls to get on the roof and that’s not safe for them either.”

Possible solutions that the group came up with range from installing LED lighting around the area to adding and removing certain aspects of the surrounding landscaping.

“My group and I were there and saw the issues first hand,” said Connolly. “We could see people out there using drugs and doing different things in broad daylight with children less than 250 feet away from them… It’s just not fair; kids deserve a safe place to read.”

The group not only presented their findings in class, but also shared them with the Turlock Library staff and the police department.

“The group did their assessment right away, worked hard and were very independent,” said Diane Bartlett, library manager. “I was so happy we had the opportunity to meet with them because we want to make the library a safe place to be, and we are so thankful for their help and the suggestions they came up with.”

Professor Kathleen Blom's class, Community Problem Oriented Policing, exposes criminal justice students to government agencies, neighborhood groups, individual citizens and even the media during their class projects and forces them to collaborate and understand how complex working with many stakeholders or groups can be.

“Learning how a police department can positively impact communities is most effective when students can attack real neighborhood problems, come up with solutions and then actually see the solutions be applied in a real world environment,” said Blom. “Going through these projects makes students understand how important collaboration and team work with local government and citizens is mandatory to get anything done.”

The hands-on research these students conducted will be presented to the Turlock City Council at their Nov. 10 meeting.

“My group and I have made so many connections throughout the community with this project,” said Connelly. “As group leader I’ve been working one-on-one with the Turlock PD Crime Prevention officer and library staff. We’ve been in touch with the Fire Marshall, captain of the Turlock PD… just different agencies and amazing people.”