Dec 5, 2006

Bookstore hit hard by theft

by Joanne Tang, News Editor
A student walks in, his backpack slung over his shoulder. He glances around. A clerk is wishing a customer a good day, and another clerk is stocking packs of mini-donuts. He walks past all of them as he enters the textbook aisles. His eyes scan up and down as he looks at the various offerings. He snatches up the textbook and after looking around and seeing no one, he stuffs it into his backpack. No one is the wiser as he walks to the counter and the clerk greets him. The student unzips his backpack to reveal the book. As he walks out of the bookstore, a sum of almost $100 in his pocket, the clerk takes the book and places it back on the shelf.

A quick look around the Liberty bookstore reveals much. The clothing is bright and colorful, the logos and letterheads of Liberty proudly displayed. There is a small section of greeting cards, last-minute reminders of a birthday or anniversary.

The campus bookstore is a common place to go when one feels a need for some caffeine, a quick snack or just a place to go between classes. As with many campus bookstores across the nation, it also has its share of theft.

In the fall semester, campus bookstore management has seen six accounts of theft, versus the eight accounts during the entire 2005 - 2006 school year. Just in the last three weeks, four people were caught and arrested for stealing, said Ellen Mayes, store manager.

“They’re stealing textbooks and selling them back,” she said. “They’re taking advantage of the buyback system.”

What many students are not aware of is that when students steal textbooks and sell them back to the bookstore, they are actually increasing the prices of books. The number of books in circulation impacts the number of books that are expected back at the end of the semester. The number of books that come back drives the cost of textbooks down. If a student tries to sell back a book that hasn’t been purchased, it changes the system. In addition, students are also stealing clothing and other merchandise.

“People will slip items of clothing into their backpacks and leave the store,” said Coral Heider, assistant manager of the bookstore.

This year, the university has taken steps to begin prosecuting thieves. Det. Arthur Ryan, detective sergeant for LUPD, said stealing is prosecutable under Virginia code 18.2-178, which is defined as “obtaining money under false pretenses.”

Ryan also said that students who steal from the campus bookstore are actually stealing from Barnes & Noble, since that company contracts their services to the bookstore on campus.

Aside from the legal ramifications of stealing, The Liberty Way states that students caught stealing or in possession of stolen property will be fined $500 and will receive 30 reprimands. They will also be given 30 hours of “disciplinary community service and possible administrative withdrawal.” Students will also be required to repay the amount stolen and will also spend two semesters out of school.
To boost security, bookstore staff has increased by 25 new members. Aside from bookstore theft, there is concern over students’ books being stolen by other students.

Mayes recommends that students write their names on a page inside their books in ink pen. She said it does not reduce the cost of the book and if the book is stolen, students can come into the bookstore and report it stolen. The staff will then flag the book number in their system with notes indicating a student’s name is on a certain page and if the book is sold back, the computer will indicate it as being stolen. The staff encourages patrons to report any suspicious activity.

“It is crazy to mess up your future for easy money, or for some clothes,” said Mayes.

Contact Joanne Tang at jtang@liberty.edu.

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