Gangs put library under siege

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POLICE have been called to a city library 19 times in the last three months after the building became a target for teenage gangs.

Regular users of Muirhouse Library say they are being driven out by "intimidating" groups of youths, who are using the internet facilities under a new council scheme.

On one occasion, police were called to the library three times in one night when 3000 worth of damage was caused to the toilets. While officers were inside inspecting the damage, the police car was vandalised outside the library.

Local organisations who stage monthly meetings in the library have even been forced to lock the meeting room doors to stop aggressive youths bursting in.

Forth councillor Elaine Morris, who holds weekly surgeries in the library, said the situation had become unacceptable.

She said: "I think this has been building up over time. One evening I was there police were called three times and 3000 worth of damage was done in the toilets and a police car was damaged.

"It can be very hostile and I don't know if other libraries have the issues Muirhouse does.

"The staff have to be protected as well – the library should be used by everyone and just now it seems to be more of a youth drop-in centre.

"Because they can get access to the PCs, that is the attraction."

But Cllr Morris said she wouldn't be forced out of holding her surgery at the Pennywell Court library.

She said of a recent visit: "I was very concerned about the threatening atmosphere I found in there. It seems to me as if groups of youngsters have taken over and are behaving in an intimidating way. But I wouldn't move my surgery because it is very busy."

Jenny Marrow, chair of Muirhouse/Salvesen Community Council, who also sits on the Pennywell Regeneration Association, described the situation as "an outrage".

She said: "The staff are powerless to take any kind of drastic action and a few of the youngsters are quite frankly out of control.

"It's not even just at night, during the day there are some running riot and the situation is an outrage and a total nightmare.

"The CCTV cameras make no difference. There's nothing else open at night other than the chip shop, which makes the library the centre of attention.

"When we have the meetings, the doors have to be locked or they would just come bursting in, it's bad enough that they scream and bang the windows."

A police spokesman said: "There have been 19 call-outs to Muirhouse Library (in the last three months), all relating to youth disorder within the building."

A spokesman for the city council said the groundbreaking Libraries4YOUth project had been a successful way of engaging with young people.

He added: "Where there has been inappropriate behaviour we have taken measures to tackle it working with community police.

"Muirhouse Library is highly regarded locally and we will ensure that it continues to provide a valuable service to everyone in a safe, pleasant environment."

&#149 Lothian & Borders Police website

&#149 Edinburgh City Council website

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