Finding a solution to UA Bookstore thefts

By Brooke Haliburton/El Inde

The University of Arizona Bookstore is the place to go to find all your basic school supplies on campus: new AirPods, a Hydro Flask water bottle and pencils. But not everything that is taken out of the store is being sold — a lot of things are stolen from the bookstore, too.

University policies are really very strict, they have high tech security cameras all throughout the bookstore, where staff can watch students walk throughout the store to shop and sometimes, steal.

Rances Romero, a UA Student majoring in Biomedical Engineering and Mathematics, is also a customer service representative of the textbooks department at the University of Arizona Bookstore. He has been working there since his sophomore year. “I enjoy working at the bookstore especially because I get a discount. Stealing is something that happens, but it is also rare,” said Romero.

The bookstore security cameras are always watching the customers who come in and out of the store. Their security team monitors the bookstore from the moment it opens until it closes, with a big screen in the back of the store where personnel can see every corner.

According to Romero, the bookstore is probably one of the most expensive stores on campus with the most thefts.

All Apple products that the bookstore sells are equal in price as the items at the Apple store. But then there are other items like supplies and clothing that cost between $50 and $100 just for having the UA logo. As for the textbook department, the price of books can vary. “We have textbooks for Spanish that could cost up to $293.50, while we have other books that cost $20 or less,” Romero said.

According to the bookstore staff, stealing happens at the bookstore once or twice a week, although the number could be bigger based on the people they have not caught.

“Once I helped this one customer find an item in the supplies area, and then that customer proceeded to steal the item. Security was able to stop the student and recover the stolen items,” Romero said.

Once the security personnel identifies someone who may have stolen, they follow a specific procedure: first, they ask the student to open their backpack or purse to look for the suspected stolen item. Once found, the student is taken to a conference room where the student’s information is taken. They are also informed of everything that proceeds after that, and how from that point on, the student will no longer be allowed inside the bookstore. 

The most commonly stolen items are Hydro Flasks, and then supplies like pens, pencils and other small items that students think are easy to steal.

“I think that these incidents change throughout the year; they increase during the first few weeks of each semester when the bookstore is full of students. They then increase on Family Weekend and Homecoming Weekend. It all depends on what is going on around campus,” Romero said.

Karla Uriarte is a journalism student at the UA who has been attending the University for three years. She has been shopping at the bookstore since before she started her program, when she came to her freshman orientation. That’s when she said she stole for the first time.

“I had already gone in there for a few other things that I needed,” described Uriarte. “I had bought a couple items and I needed two chargers. When I left, I realized I forgot to buy that second charger for my laptop. I went back and the line was very long and I just didn’t feel like waiting because I was going to be late to class. So, I decided to just put it in my bag with all the other stuff I had paid for previously, and I just slipped it in there,” Uriarte said.

The bookstore security then came up to her to stop her after they saw her on the cameras, stealing. “They took me into a conference room where they explained everything to me and had me sign some stuff,” Uriarte said. She was banned from all of the bookstores for a short period of time. They made her take a picture and attend a workshop that was three hours long. She also had to take another online workshop and 10 hours of community service.

Regardless of some of its high prices, the UA bookstore still continues to attract a wide range of customers like Karla Uriarte. Their challenge, is finding a way to keep them from stealing.

“I think there are many solutions to reducing stealing. I think the best way to start is by asking students their opinions more because they are the main customers and we should always find ways to help them,” Romero said.

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