Textbook thefts a growing problem

Students may need to worry less about valuables such as cell phones and laptops getting stolen and instead keep a closer eye on their textbooks.

Lt. William Gerlach of the University of Miami Police Department said there have been nine reported book thefts in the past year, three of which have been recovered. Among those three, two were textbooks and one was a back pack holding books.

Senior Cody Rothschild said she was on the second floor of Richter Library Monday when she saw a male wearing a black polo shirt steal a psychology book that belonged to a young woman who had left it unattended for several minutes.

Rothschild, who later tried unsuccessfully to help the victim identify the thief, said the young woman had a test in psychology the next day.

Gary Spearow, director of the university bookstore, said the problem deserves attention and that the bookstore works with the UMPD to help recover stolen books.

Once the victim discovers their book is stolen, they should notify the bookstore of the incident, Spearow said. As part of procedure, the victim is requested to complete a generic form that asks basic personal information, a description of the incident and details about the stolen book.

The bookstore staff will also ask if the victim recalls a distinctive quality or mark on the book, such as specific writing, illustrations or highlights.

Spearow advises students to create these marks in their books because it gives each book a recognizable feature that sets it apart from the rest, making it easier to find.

“Identifying marks are the key,” he said.

The bookstore requires students to provide their C-number when they are selling back books. If a thief provides their real C-number, it goes into the computer system and the thief can be identified, Gerlach said. However, if the thief provides an invalid C-number, Spearow said the investigation becomes more difficult, but not impossible.

“Unlike some other universities, UM ID cards do not have the C-number on them, which causes problems [when books are stolen],” he said. “We want to lobby to put the student’s C-number, or another mark to prove a person’s identity, on the card.”

With finals approaching, students should be more careful and conscious of where they put their belongings, especially textbooks,

“Our rates are at a premium during finals,” Spearow said, noting that this is when book theft is on the rise. “That means you’re going to get the most amount of money if you sell back your books; usually 50 percent.”

Chelsea Kate Isaacs may be contacted at chelsea@miami.edu.