A total of $2,821.75 worth of textbooks has been stolen from the FGCU bookstore since August 2015.
FGCU UPD has collected seven reported cases detailing a total of 18 books taken from the store. The suspects appear to be two white males and a white female, who, according to surveillance footage reviewed by several store managers and UPD officers, have worked in pairs during to execute at least three of the thefts.
Before UPD could begin a detailed investigation, Follett, the retail corporation that oversees the bookstore, had to decide whether they wanted to prosecute the suspects once caught.
“Follett generally doesn’t detain somebody at first,” UPD Chief Steven Moore said. “What we’ve been working with them on at fi rst is last year they had to figure out if they wanted to prosecute people or not so now that they have the green light, one, they want to prosecute and two to call UPD immediately.”
Moore said the most important factor in catching the suspects involves the action of bookstore employees. Those who witness a crime must call UPD as soon as possible to help speed up the process of obtaining the thieves.
“If we can get there as the crime is occurring or right after the crime and try to catch the people while they’re still on campus that’d be great,” Moore said. “It doesn’t work as well when they call an hour later or a day later.”
Despite Moore’s pleas for the bookstore to contact UPD right away, employees working during the time of the thefts failed to do so, as described in several of the police reports.
On Friday Jan. 29 at approximately 9:35 a.m. when two males stole five textbooks valued at $1,014.75, Laura Jensen, the store manager on duty at the time, did not call UPD until 3:05 p.m. She did not realize there was a theft going on until after reviewing the surveillance camera footage. On Nov. 24 2015 at approximately 2:22 p.m. the same suspect as identified in surveillance footage from the theft that occurred the previous day stole two textbooks valued at $230.42, and UPD was not called onto the scene until 2:47 p.m.
Due to the fact that this is an ongoing investigation, none of the witnesses or store managers were able to answer questions regarding the thefts. Since these thefts, the bookstore has begun taking preventative measures to attempt to stop future incidents.
“They’ve put up some barricades to close off the book section of the bookstore,” Moore said. “Obviously after the first couple of weeks of the semester there’s really not much demand for anybody to get a book. The book area doesn’t need to be open to the public.”
These thieves aren’t just hitting the FGCU bookstore, however. On Thursday Aug. 13 2015 the first textbook theft of the 2014-15 school year occurred. While only one book was stolen valued at $177, the two suspects, a white male and a white female left the Cohen Center in a silver newer model Dodge Dart sedan, a car that was seen at Florida SouthWestern State College on Wednesday July 29 2015.
UPD contacted Lieutenant Mitchell from FSW UPD who confirmed that a theft occurred at their bookstore on that day, and that the college has had several book thefts involving male and female suspects working together.
“What we’ve had is groups who’re not just coming to the FGCU bookstore,” Moore said. “They’re going to FSW Fort Myers campus (and) their Charlotte campus. We’re working with all parties involved to try and get the parties that are doing this.”
Four of the seven reports detailed involve grand theft, defined as anything valued over $300 that was stolen.
“You have two different statutes that are in play with this,” Moore said. “These are all retail thefts so some of them are just petty thefts because if they take one book and it’s under $300 that would be a misdemeanor, if it’s over $300 then it’s a felony.”
If the suspects are caught, the process of handling their punishments will depend on if they are students enrolled at FGCU.
“The court system has their own way of handling it as far as whether there’s diversion programs and that there’s different sentencing guidelines,” Moore said. “If by chance any of the people are affiliated with FGCU, meaning if they’re students, then they would also be referred to Student Affairs for the disciplinary process, but we’re unaware of any of the current suspects being affiliated with FGCU.”
UPD has dealt with other large scale thefts in the past. In December 2015, a student had $5,000 stolen out of her dorm room. However, the bookstore thefts stand out among past incidents.
“This has been the most repetitive,” Moore said. “That’s why we’re working when these pop up, we try to get on it because it’s a group and if you don’t stop them they’ll just keep coming back and back.”