Rare Book Monthly

Articles - October - 2012 Issue

Crime, Punishment and eBay: Books are still the Target of Thefts

Sturgislibr

The Sturgis Library, from their website.

A Cape Cod man has been indicted on multiple counts of stealing books from libraries, books that eventually made their way to eBay. This case is just another reminder of the problem with eBay, a wonderful online auction site that often provides consumers with great values, but once in awhile becomes a vehicle for stolen merchandise. Arthur Souza, a 52-year-old regular visitor at several Cape Cod libraries, has been charged with four counts of larceny of library material worth more than $250 and two counts of the same for material worth less than $250. This was not the first time the apparently slow-learning Mr. Souza has been charged with such crimes. He was out on $200 bail from April at the Orleans District Court. This time he gets to try his luck at the Barnstable Superior Court.

According to the Cape Cod Times, Souza is alleged to have stolen books from libraries in Hyannis, Harwich, Brewster, Barnstable Village, and South Yarmouth. He then sold the books to an antiques dealer in Chatham who offered the books for sale on eBay. His troubles arose when a customer in South Carolina noticed library markings from the Sturgis Library in Barnstable Village and called the library. Notice was sent around to other libraries on the Cape, and when Mr. Souza began examining rare books at the Brooks Free Library in Harwich, the police were called in. Perhaps Mr. Souza misinterpreted the meaning of “Free” in the Brooks Library's name.

One would think that the antiques dealer would have wondered about the source of books with library markings before posting the same for sale on eBay. There should have been some red flags there, but considering the seller posted images with the library markings blatantly obvious, it was evidently a case of naivete. Buyers, wholesale and retail, may just assume if someone offers a library book for sale, it is an ex-libris, rather than a libris. Then again, we should know by now what assume makes of “u” and me.

A more disturbing book theft case came out of Kenya recently, where books are still more treasured for the knowledge within than as collectible items. There has been a rash of thefts of schoolbooks in one province, and the level of stealing and associated violence has become alarming. Thieves have broken into book supplies at several schools and made off with the needed textbooks. Apparently, they are able to sell then on the streets of Kenya or to schools in neighboring South Sudan. Security guards have been tied up during the thefts, and in one case, two guards were reportedly killed by what appears to be well-organized criminals. In some instances, books have disappeared without such break-ins, leading parents to believe that some teachers may be in on the crime. This case is a sobering reminder to those of us who live in nations where printed books are disappearing from schools because electronic editions are taking their place, not because of thefts. There are countries where economic conditions are such that traditional printed textbooks are still very valuable and desperately needed. Stealing from children who need every break possible to lift them out of poverty takes a particularly low form of thief.


Posted On: 2012-10-20 00:00
User Name: payson

I have happy memories from about fifteen years ago, when Sturgis Library of Barnstable had a huge book sale. They sold off most of their oldest bo


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