A 5-year-old girl burst into tears after police arrived at her house to collect two overdue library books she had in her possession.
The girl's mother said police went "too far" when the Charlton police paid a visit to her home on Dec. 27 to collect the library books the family did not return on time.
When the Charlton Public Library didn't receive their overdue items after requests, it asked for police intervention.
According to Boston's local CBS affiliate Charlton Police Sergeant Dan Dowd was asked by the chief of police to go to the family's home to collect library owned books in their possession that were long overdue.
The mother felt the library crossed the line when they decided to send police to her home to collect the books, or receive payment for, the items that had not been returned.
'Is that policeman going to arrest me?'" Benoit quoted her daughter to CNN affiliate WBZ-TV.
"She's 5; she didn't understand," said Shannon Benoit of her daughter, Hailey.
"I was scared," added Hailey.
The Charlton Public Library says it sent out several warnings and it wasn't the two children's books, "How To Tie My Shoes" and "Eloise's Birthday," that was the library's primary concern as much as the $100 audio book checked out by Tony Benoit in spring 2009; that book alone had reportedly accumulated over $100 worth of late fees. The books Hailey checked out were due in Oct. 2010.
"I asked the chief... 'When does something borrowed become stolen?" CNN reported library spokesperson Cheryl Hansen said. "'The chief said, 'When it's overdue!""
Ms. Benoit feels the library didn't have to take this route in order to get the books returned.
“I understand it was my responsibility to return them, but I never received a letter or a phone call, otherwise I would have just returned the books. I think that the policies there are a little messed up,” Ms. Benoit said.
The library disputes this claim of not contacting the family. The spokeswoman said the library had sent out a warning letter and made several calls before turning to police for assistance.
The Benoit family wasn't the only household to get a knock on the door from police, a total of 13 homes were paid a visit, the dollar amount for overdue items from these households came to $2,634 in "significantly overdue materials," the library told the Worcester Telegram. The Benoit family's share of this amount was $130.
Massachusetts state law indicates unreturned books at this dollar amount is is a misdemeanor. The library said it thought "a friendly reminder" was better than going straight to a court summons. Hansen said sending out police to collect items paid by taxpayer funds is a last ditch effort to get back "some of our most valuable materials."
Purportedly some are saying involving police to collect library property is a waste of resources, but the local chief of police disagrees.
“If the library went to the court for a criminal complaint, there would have been a hearing. We would have gone to these same households with a notice to appear (in court). So to the people saying we are misusing time or resources, those same resources would have gone to the same households,” Chief Pervier said to the Worcester Telegram.
The Benoit family has returned all items.
An Iowa man served 10 days in jail for not returning library property, Digital Journal reported in Sept.