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A 43-year-old career criminal was arrested on April 1 in a sting operation at the downtown Central Library, after he swiped an iPod, placed on a table by an undercover cop.
“Thefts at the library are too commonplace, and we want to send a message to thieves: think twice before you take someone’s stuff,” said Lt. Paul Vernon.
Undercover officers cased the library over several days, talking to security officers and watching patrons, to figure out the best, or worst, place to set one’s computer, iPod or purse. “In this instance, it was a third-floor end table, near the bathrooms and elevators, around 5:00pm,” Vernon explained.
An undercover officer set a laptop on the table and an iPod on top of the computer, then walked away. In a matter of minutes, Anthony Eugene Johnson nonchalantly picked up the iPod and placed it in his jacket pocket. Officers followed him through the library for several minutes then arrested him when he sat down with his own laptop. The officers discovered the iPod among the bookshelves where Johnson had stashed it.
The detectives booked Johnson on a felony for committing a petty theft with a prior conviction. His bail was set at $20,000.
In 2009, thefts at the Central Library jumped from 35 to 47, a 35 percent increase. Bike thefts more than doubled to eight for the year. The most common items taken at the library were personal electronic gadgets: laptops, iPods, and cell phones. For the first 3 months of 2010, thefts at the library have dropped from 16 last year to 9 this year. Four patrons have discovered their bicycles stolen from the racks outside the library so far this year.
“We want to scare the crooks into thinking that any time they grab an iPod, it might belong to a cop,” Vernon said. “And we want the patrons to be more aware. I’d love to see every reading table have a sign to warn visitors to watch their stuff.”
Anyone with information on this crime is urged to call Central Area Detectives at (213)972-1231.
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