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UofA Bookstore textbook thefts increasing

By Holly Wells
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, September 20, 2004
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Textbook theft is on the rise at the bookstore, and many students have been caught stealing books they say they need for class, UA officials said.

Frank Farias, UofA Bookstore director, said bookstore employees caught a person shoplifting almost every day last week.

Farias said that if more students are stealing books now than in the past, it is not because the price of books has gone up dramatically.

"It could be that students are facing more financial pressures," he said.

Farias said the cost of living, increased tuition and the economy are some of the financial issues students deal with.

"None of them legitimize the act of stealing," he said. "If you are a student, it is beyond me why anyone would want to steal. It is a crime and we do prosecute to the full extent."

A student stole a book that cost $11.62 Sept. 6, according to University of Arizona Police Department reports.

The student told police he needed the book for a class assignment and did not have the money to pay for it.

Another student put an "El Mundo 21" Spanish book in her backpack Sept. 1. She told police she was going to pay for the book after she got a refund back for another book, reports stated.

You steal from here and you will get caught. The odds are against you.

- Frank Farias, UofA Bookstore director


Farias said he thinks when students steal books, it's more out of impulse than out of an actual need for the book.

"They think it will be easy," he said. "In lots of cases, they have stolen before and think they can get away with it."

Farias said if the bookstore thefts continue, prices might increase.

"It's no different than a professor allowing a student to cheat," he said."It's our job to make sure we don't allow (stealing)."

Security cameras monitor every corner of the store, and employees watch the screens for suspicious people.

"If someone is acting suspicious, but we're not sure they're stealing, we can take a picture and keep track of them the next time they come back to the store," said Teresita Martinez, a journalism junior who monitors the security cameras.

Martinez said the security team does not call police or approach someone unless they are almost positive they were stealing.

"It's all about instinct," she said, "because sometimes it is hard to tell."

Martinez said the security team keeps a record of everyone who steals so that if the person tries to come into the bookstore again the team can call police.

Sergeant Eugene Mejia, UAPD spokesman, said police are often called before the person stealing leaves the store.

Farias said besides criminal charges, students caught stealing are referred to the Dean of Students Office and may face expulsion.

Mejia said most thefts are considered misdemeanors, but if a theft is more than $1,000, a judge can choose to make it a felony, depending on the circumstances.

To prevent theft, all bookstore employees are trained to look for shoplifting, and the bookstore has a security team made up entirely of students, Farias said.

Farias said the increase in theft is not due to stepped-up security measures.

"Our security team has always done a great job, I think there's just more people (stealing)," Farias said.

"Every part of the store is under surveillance," he said. "You steal from here and you will get caught. The odds are against you."

Mejia said he doesn't understand why people continue to steal from the bookstore.

"It's a well-publicized fact that people get caught," Mejia said. "It's a matter of controlling your behavior."

"The people caught stealing used to be 50 percent students and 50 percent people from the streets," Farias said. "More consistently we've been catching students."

Farias said there are many different ways to get books if you can't afford them.

"The institution has lots of opportunities for people in need," he said. "No one who has been caught stealing has come to financial aid or come to me and said they needed some help."

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