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Is the Arlington Heights library safe? Depends on who you ask
By Sheila Ahern | Daily Herald Staff

Frank Biga


Kerry Pearson


Charles Drost


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Published: 3/25/2009 12:00 AM

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The image of a safe Arlington Heights Memorial Library took a hit in December when a man stabbed another man six times outside the library, said Frank Biga, who is running for a seat on the library board.

"The perception among people is that homeless people are loitering and hanging out around the library," said Biga, a teacher at Oak Lawn Community High School. "Security needs to be improved. There also needs to be Internet filters. The perception is that someone sitting next to you could be watching porn."

Besides Biga, Charles Drost and incumbent Kerry Pearson are running for the two six-year terms on the library board. After more than 35 years on the board, longtime board member Jan Tucker decided not to run in the April 7 election.

On Dec. 27, Michael Todd stabbed another man in front of the library six times. The men knew each other from staying at several homeless shelters in the area, according to police. Both men also had prior run-ins with the police, including public intoxication, public trespassing and disturbing the peace. Todd was later charged with attempted murder.

After the stabbing, Arlington Heights police officers and library employees discussed ways to improve security, Pearson said.

"The library is not a police force, we can't go around arresting people," said Pearson, who is an Arlington Heights lawyer. "We have 2,500 people a day coming through our library's doors. It could've happened anywhere."

Drost is an assistant vice president of commercial banking at Village Bank & Trust in Arlington Heights. He called the stabbing "an isolated incident."

"The library is a public place," Drost said. "The staff has a good understanding of the rules and will work with the police if there is a situation. I've talked to a lot of voters and most feel safe at the library. Most feel safe bringing their children to the library."

Currently the library only has filters on the computers in the children's area. While Biga said all library computers should have Internet filters, Pearson sees no reason to extend those filters to computers outside the children's section.

"Studies show that filters don't always work, that they filter out things that should be available, for example, if someone is researching breast cancer or rape statistics," he said. "People who want to look at that stuff are going to figure out a way anyway."

Drost said the library should only punish people who abuse their computer privileges.

"We should look at it in a case-by-case basis," he said. "If someone is on an inappropriate Web site, that person should be punished."

There is also one 2-year seat up for election in April. Deborah Nelson and Dawn Walter are running for that seat.