Backpack theft a growing problem at campus store

By By Katie Valentine

By Katie Valentine

Stealing backpacks has become a common way to get quick cash for thieves, especially in the University Campus Store, and the U wants students to take the extra effort to protect themselves.

The U campus store is one of the only places on campus where students can’t hold onto their backpacks at all times. Students entering the store must leave their backpacks in the cubbies or lockers provided.

About 30 backpacks go missing each year, said Earl Clegg, director of the store. Backpacks aren’t safe sitting unattended in cubbies. The store has a web of security protecting all of the merchandise, such as textbooks, software and U paraphernalia8212;but not students’ backpacks.

Campus employees gave surveillance video tapes to the U Police Department after they discovered a couple of thieves stole two backpacks Aug. 25 and Aug. 26. The thieves were arrested Aug. 27 while running from the store with another backpack.

“We have a pretty close working relationship (with the U campus store) when it comes to theft,” said U Police Chief Scott Folsom.

Those in question drove a red Volkswagen Beetle that the U Police spotted Aug. 27 pulling into the store’s parking lot.

U Police then noticed them running from the store as a store employee chased after them. The backpack, which had a MacBook valued at $1,200 and a TI-85 calculator valued at $50, was returned to the owner.

Other backpacks the shoplifters had stolen contained textbooks, laptops and a gun, allowed per the concealed-carry law.

Students weren’t carrying as many personal items in their backpacks 10 years ago, Clegg said. Students carry textbooks, laptops, iPods, cell phones and wallets in them now. All of these items make stealing a backpack more enticing, he said. Backpack thieves usually take everything of value to sell.

It isn’t possible for a person to continuously watch the backpack section in the store because it isn’t possible to remember whose backpack is whose, so a security guard wouldn’t know if a thief is stealing a backpack or if a student is merely returning to his or her own, Clegg said.

The store does offer help to students to reduce the likelihood of their backpack being stolen. Any student can borrow a quarter from the bookstore and use the free lockers on the wall opposite of the cubbies. After a student is done with the locker, the quarter is returned to the customer service counter.

The Union uses similar lockers, which were installed five years ago and protect students from backpack theft, said Branden Dalley, associate director of operations for the Union.
On the rare occasion when a student’s backpack is stolen, it’s because it has been left unattended, Dalley said.

The same pattern rings true in the Field House.

The Field House provides cubbies for students while they’re working out. There have been things stolen from those cubbies, said Cheri Jenkins, associate director for the Field House.

Theft isn’t a common problem at the Field House, and there hasn’t been any in the past six months, Jenkins said.

One of the reasons why the cubbies aren’t as highly targeted at the Field House as they are at the U campus store is because the Field House is set up so that students can work out while keeping an eye on their belongings, Jenkins said.

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