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City may seek armed guards at Central Library, other parks

Posted: 5:34 PM, Jan 31, 2018
Updated: 2018-02-01 00:24:02-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- The city of San Diego may seek armed guards to patrol downtown's Central Library and multiple other locations open to the public.

A city spokeswoman confirmed to 10News that it intends to issue a request for proposals that would allow it the option to have armed security services. 

The city's current security firm, called Able, Patrol and Guard, is not allowed to carry weapons. City documents show that it patrols the Central Library, multiple community parks, City Hall, and even Brown Field.

The city wouldn't give a specific reason for the move, but multiple guards said the situation with the homeless at the Central Library has deteriorated to the point that it's unsafe. One guard said he and his colleagues have been spit on, threatened, and surrounded while patrolling the property, especially in the wee hours of the morning. 

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Homeless people outside the library expressed dismay at the possibility, saying that the assertions by the guards were overblown.

"There's been loud discussions, but I've never seen anybody fistfight, or threaten physical violence, I've never seen anybody use any type of weapons," said Christopher Rossi, a homeless person who goes to the Central Library daily to charge his cell phone.

Police records through August 2017 show about 100 robberies, batteries, and people with weapons outside the library since 2013.

Wayne Spees, a senior consultant for Workplace Guardians, said arming the guards would make them a harder target.

"If I was going in to do some sort of a violent crime, I would be deterred if there was someone in there who was armed who could stop me, versus someone who is going to call the police, where I may have some time," he said.

But Elaine Bachelor, who works near the library, said armed guards wouldn't make her feel safer.

"Now if you have a security guard with a gun, now you have a situation that has a gun, whereas there probably was not a gun to begin with," she said. 

The city's contract with Able, Patrol and Guard lasts through mid 2019, but city spokesman Tim Graham said it can be terminated anytime. 

The city is still working on the Request for Proposals, which solicits bids from security companies.

The city could also opt for "enhanced" security guards with non-lethal weapons like stun guns and night sticks, which would be less costly than the more specialized armed guards.

The options - unarmed, enhanced, or armed - would be available to the city under the new proposal, providing options that it now does not have.