Bookstores should deter theft

By By Joseph Simmons

By Joseph Simmons

Nothing is as beautiful to a thief as the prospect of getting on-the-spot untraceable cash for stolen merchandise.

Getting that quick payoff with no strings attached allows that thief to pay that pressing debt, fund that trip to Wendover, fill that empty needle or more likely8212;let’s be honest8212;invest that money in long-term securities and bonds.

For years thieves have turned to pawn shops to quickly unload stolen merchandise, but now many of them, I believe, are onto something much easier and more lucrative8212;stealing our textbooks.

A recent report from U Police shows that the most common theft from the University Campus Store is that of student backpacks. It makes sense, given that just stealing a textbook is going to get a thief some cash, but a backpack will almost certainly also have iPods, wallets, etc. However, though someone’s iPod might be icing on a thief’s cake, only textbooks offer the guarantee of quick cash.

A glance at the website of one of the more popular local textbook exchanges, Bucks4Books, offers a simple equation for getting that quick cash, which reads: “1. Walk into any (Bucks4Books) store. 2 Put your books on the counter. 3. Open your hand. 4. Put the money in your pocket and have a nice day.”

Bucks4Books is a great option for honest students, but there needs to be a change at the state level to make stores such as these thoroughly beneficial to the university community8212;Utah Code needs to be amended to officially identify all textbook exchange stores as secondhand merchandise dealers.

Stores such as Bucks4Books operate through what is more or less a loophole found in Utah Code, which makes them exempt from having to keep records like other secondhand merchandise dealers, such as pawn shops, do.

According to Utah Code, the definition of a secondhand merchandise dealer “does not include the sale or receipt of secondhand books, magazines, or post cards.”

Normally, secondhand merchandise dealers operate with strict record-keeping that requires them to record, among other things, the date and time of the transaction, the name, address and date of birth of the seller, the number of a valid form of government I.D. of the seller and a legible thumbprint of the seller’s right thumb (Utah Code 13-32a-104.1.a-f).

These checks are in place to deter the sale of stolen merchandise. Although they don’t completely stop these sales from occurring, when they do, it creates a paper trail that allows police and the victims of theft to chase those responsible.

Eliminating the possibility of immediate cash with no legitimate paper trail won’t stop textbook thefts, but it will undoubtedly deter those coming from off campus to steal our books. There are few thieves who have the time or patience to steal books, then sell them online and ship them, and even if they do, they have to leave a paper trail that can help track them down.

From a legal standpoint, a bill would have to be introduced to amend Utah Code in such a way that there are records being kept of textbooks being sold in stores such as Bucks4Books and even in the U bookstore. The political process involved in making such an amendment would take months, but that doesn’t mean that the U and other textbook exchanges couldn’t voluntarily take steps to deter sellers of stolen goods.

Putting in policies such as registering I.D. numbers or thumbprints wouldn’t affect the basic supply and demand for textbooks, but it would fundamentally alter the market for thieves. Given that there is always a demand for textbooks, all a thief must do is get a supply. If that demand comes with conditions that thieves can’t abide by, they will, by necessity, look for a new market to work in8212;ideally off of our campus.

The Utah State Legislature needs to look at amending Utah Code to address this problem as soon as possible. In the meantime, textbook exchange stores should immediately institute policies that will discourage and reduce textbook thefts for immediate sale from taking place.

[email protected]