Apr 282005
Authors: Cari Merrill

As the semester comes to a close, finals are nearing and the library is filling up with students ready to study – and thieves ready to steal neglected backpacks.

Students often need breaks from the endless hours of studying but leaving their belongings unattended can lead them to become victims of backpack theft.

While students are preoccupied with end-of-the-year events, thieves use this to their advantage to steal textbooks from right under students' noses.

Sgt. Keith Turney of CSU Police Department said reports of backpack theft occur on a weekly basis.

The Lory Student Center, Morgan Library, the Individualized Mathematics Program (IMP) office and the University Bookstore are primes targets for thieves to spot unattended backpacks. While wallets, purses and cell phones are reasons to snatch a bag, textbooks are also a prime source of cash for thieves.

Thieves get ahold of textbooks and sometimes try to get unsuspecting students to sell the books back to the bookstore for them. These students in turn give the thieves the cash.

To counteract this, the bookstore has ways of tracking books. If a student reports his or her books as stolen and someone else comes in and tries to sell those books back, the bookstore catches on, said Margaret Gearhart, bookstore manager.

"We've had that situation where we've had a student come in and sell books back to us and we identified the books as stolen," Gearhart said. "When we approached the student who had sold them back, he said, 'Oh, the guy that was right there asked me to sell them for him.' Well, the guy split and now our student has received stolen property. And he was trying to do a favor for somebody and that's a pretty typical procedure that professionals will use."

The bookstore checks the ID of every student selling back books. If a student is trying to sell back a stolen book, he or she has just become part of the crime.

To avoid potentially becoming an accessory to a crime, Turney's advises students to only sell back their own textbooks.

"The big things students can to do protect themselves is don't sell books for other people and don't do it for people you don't know, because if you sell a book back and it ends up being one of the stolen books … you have now become a suspect," Turney said.

Morgan Library is also taking precautions to cut down on the number of backpack thefts. Informational sheets sit on every table in the library and outline tips students should use when studying alone as well as statistics about thefts that occurred in the library during the last academic year, said James Farmer, safety and security coordinator for the library.

Having a backpack stolen not only makes students worry about the personal items inside, such as wallets and cell phones, but also the possibility of losing a semester's worth of valuable books and class notes.

"It's not convenient to take your whole backpack to the bathroom if you've already set up, especially when there's competition for seats in the building when it gets closer to finals week," Farmer said.

But packing up and taking belongings will prevent the hassles that may result from a stolen backpack.

"Theft is a crime of opportunity," Turney said. "Most of these types of theft, nobody is breaking into cubbies or lockers at the library or student center to steal things that are under lock and key because there is plenty of opportunity for people to steal things that are left unattended."

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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