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U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Community Oriented Policing Services
Heading down to the police station doesn’t have to be a bad thing, especially if you live in the city of Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) is installing Little Free Libraries (LFL)—free-standing micro-library boxes with free books provided by community members and neighbors—in their stations to soften the precincts’ hard, gritty reputations; promote youth literacy; and develop better relationships with the public.
Building trust between residents and local police departments is key to a health community, says Captain Robert Arcos, Seventy-Seventh Street Area Commanding Officer. “A police station is often viewed as a very sterile environment. A place to report crimes, visit loved ones in jail, seek assistance for trouble teens or other family members—all in all not a positive experience,” he says. “Therefore the more opportunities we create to have a positive experience, the better we connect to our communities.” The first LAPD-sponsored LFL opened in South Los Angeles at the Seventy-Seventh Area Station in 2013. Today, nearly all 21 LAPD stations have LFLs, and the LAPD has opened LFLs in homeless shelters, community coffee shops, housing developments, council district constituent centers, and recreational centers in the Los Angeles area. In addition, the LAPD and A Chance for Children Foundation partnered with the Water Buffalo Club community group to open eight more LFLs in Los Angeles County Sheriff’s stations.
“The community response has been overwhelming,” says Arcos. “The Little Free Library in the Seventy-Seventh Street Division is constantly in use. We have book readings by police officers every other week highlighting the LFL experience. Elementary school tours are conducted twice a month, and each tour includes a book reading by officers from a Little Free Library book.”
One station has a different local school visit the station each week for a reading and tour that starts with a reading from the LFL. Afterward, the children are made honorary police officers, take a tour of the station, meet the officers, and see an exciting flight when the helicopter is available. At the end of each visit, the children are excited to find out that they each get to take a book. Officers also host book drives and other events to invite the public to the station to get to know the officers. Other community engagement from the LFL includes “Read with an Officer” programs at local public libraries. Every Friday, the officers go to the library and read to children, which is another opportunity for community engagement. In addition, the LFLs are a conduit for recruitment into youth programs because many young children who visit the LFL have become members of the LAPD Police Activities League and Cadet Program.
One important facet of the LFL in the station lobbies is that it provides safe place for children to be if their parents have to report a crime. The children or their family members are often the victims of crimes, and if children hear their parents report the crime they can be traumatized and re-victimized. Providing a space for children shelters them from hearing about the details of frightening events in their lives. The books are supplied by officers and police leadership, community partners, and grass roots book drives as well as local public libraries. One teen completed her Girl Scout Silver Award by building a LFL and collecting books for the Rampart Station. She drafted the sketch of a castle inspired library (because Rampart Station is the known as “the Castle” within the LAPD), and she and her troop built the LFL and planned the ribbon cutting with LAPD officers.
“I cannot tell you how wonderful it is to see the LFL in my station being used every single day by children,” says Sergeant Heidi Stoecklein of Newtown Station. “It has truly changed the dynamics in our station—the community room and lobby is truly the heartbeat of the station now where officers and community come together.”
For more information about the LAPD Little Free Library program, please contact Heidi Stoecklein at email@example.com or 323-846-3937.
Sergeant II Heidi Stoecklein
OIC of the Newton Area Community Safety Partnership Team
Los Angeles Police Department
Media + Programming for Little Free Library
Author of The Little Free Library Book
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