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Student Stores thefts may be linked

If you are approached and asked to sell textbooks for someone, you might want to think twice before saying yes.

UNC’s Department of Public Safety sent out an Alert Carolina message Monday seeking information related to two incidents at UNC Student Stores: a larceny on April 4 and an attempted larceny on Aug. 30.

Jim Powell, senior business officer of Student Stores, said 18 books totaling $3,923.75 were identified as stolen following the April 4 incident, and officials have reason to believe the same people are responsible for the most recent attempt.

He said eight copies of a $328 textbook accounted for half of the total money lost in April. Several copies of three other textbooks were also stolen, Powell said.

Powell said Student Stores has surveillance footage of three unknown men with backpacks entering the store separately.

“They come in, look for the most expensive books that are the easiest to get without a lot of people seeing,” he said.

He said the suspects, who he described as professional shoplifters, were able to steal the textbooks by removing the loss prevention tag. Powell said he thinks they made at least two or three successful shoplifting attempts.

The Alert Carolina message also said the suspects have been seen on campus driving a van or light-colored SUV with a Florida license plate.

Because a PID is required to sell textbooks back to the bookstore, Powell said the suspects made up a story to solicit sympathetic students on Stadium Drive to sell the stolen textbooks after unsuccessfully attempting to do so themselves.

Powell said the suspects told students they were from out of town and were trying to get home, but the bookstore wouldn’t buy the books because they weren’t students.

“These folks will come in and try to make out with the textbooks in backpacks and then they will approach students and ask them to bring (the books) back and get cash refunds,” said Randy Young, spokesman for DPS.

He said the suspects were identified in April by a freshman who mentioned she was selling the textbooks for someone else when she purchased the books.

“They probably asked a lot of people but ended up finding a freshman who was just trying to help them,” he said.

With the help of that student, Powell said they were able to identify the men when they attempted to steal textbooks again Aug. 30. The suspects failed to remove all of the loss prevention tags, which set off the alarm, and were asked to leave the store.

Young said he believes there might be more incidents related to the investigation.

“Informational emails are sent when there is a series of related crimes and that’s the case here,” he said. “We’re not only looking to identify (the suspects), but we also don’t want anyone else falling for this.”

Young said DPS is requesting information from anyone who has been approached and is asking students to report to DPS immediately if they are approached.

“The loss of the books is one thing, but to involve a student and endanger a student in some way is something we’re trying to prevent,” Powell said.

Sophomore Becka Brown said she thought Student Stores’ strict policies would deter shoplifters.

“Honestly, it seems like pretty tight security to me,” she said.

“They’ve got the system down so that (thefts) are not a common thing.”

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Freshman Samantha Elkins said if she were to be approached, she doesn’t think she would fall for the scheme.

“It’s kind of the same as when you have (homeless people) on Franklin trying to ask for money,” she said.

“You just have to kind of brush it off and keep going.”

university@dailytarheel.com