A Georgia man suspected of stealing books multiple times this semester from the Campus Bookstore was taken into custody on Sept. 22 at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino and Hotel.
Alvin R. Wilson, 42 and listing a Fayetteville, Ga. address, is charged with felony larceny. He was booked in the Jackson County Detention Center on $2000 bond. His first court appearance is scheduled for Tuesday (Oct. 18).
WCU Lt. Martin Anthony obtained a warrant for Wilson’s arrest after an investigation conducted by University Police led them to believe he was behind a rash of burglaries that began in August.
On Aug. 16, University Police responded to a call from the Campus Bookstore regarding a large number of books that had gone missing. According to incident and arrest reports, upon further investigation, it was discovered that a total of 51 books were missing from the shelves. All of the books were large in size and have a total retail value of nearly $10,000. The shelves that the books were missing from were in the line of sight of two cameras, but they were not operational at the time.
When Anthony reviewed footage from other security cameras in the store on Aug. 19, he identified a suspect, later determined to be Wilson. Wilson was observed making repeated trips to the area where the missing books were shelved, picking up between two and five books at a time, hiding them in a legal size zippered planner and a backpack, and leaving the store.
Later in the footage, the suspect was observed approaching the counter, and paid for $15.53 worth of merchandise with a MasterCard debit card under the name of Alvin Wilson.
After University Police received a court order to retrieve information from the MasterCard account associated with Wilson, it was discovered that he had an extensive criminal history involving bookstore and textbook theft in Texas and Georgia. On Sept. 7, a warrant for felony larceny was obtained.
At 4 p.m. on Sept. 22, the Campus Bookstore notified University Police that an individual matching the description of Wilson had been in the bookstore. Officers subsequently sent out a “Be On The Lookout” to surrounding enforcement agencies. That night, Wilson was spotted at Harrah’s and was taken into custody by Cherokee Police and handed over to WCU.
Upon questioning by University Police, Wilson did not deny stealing books from the WCU bookstore, but told police that the total of 51 books was “ludicrous”. He declined to give a written statement because he felt that the book total was excessive.
Pam DeGraffenreid, manager of the Campus Bookstore, said that both security cameras that were not operating in August have been fixed. She stated that this robbery is the largest she has seen in her 25 plus years working with the bookstore.
“Usually we only see one or two books, or maybe a backpack, stolen at a time,” she said. “This theft was very out of the ordinary.”
When asked why bookstore staff didn’t notice Wilson making repeated trips in and out of the bookstore, she said that the bookstore was abnormally busy. Though DeGraffenreid only knows of two days that Wilson was in the bookstore, she feels that Wilson made more than one trip to steal books.
“If he had taken all the books out in one visit, he would have been noticed,” DeGraffenreid said. “I think he visited the store earlier too.”
She said that the bookstore does not have any immediate plans to increase security, citing the effectiveness of the security camera system installed during the recent renovation.
“In the future, we will look into book tags similar to the system the library uses, but it must be cost-effective,” DeGraffenreid said.