Department of Public Safety officers arrested Dennis Wong, a Providence resident, after he was caught stealing medical textbooks and trade books from the Brown Bookstore Feb. 28.
Wong was apprehended in the bookstore cafe as he was removing price tags from $430.25 worth of books in his possession, said Paul Shanley, deputy chief of police of DPS.
Wong was responsible for at least two or three other thefts at the bookstore this semester, Shanley said. The exact amount he stole is still under investigation.
"He was knocking us dead. He was really hitting us," said Steven Souza, director of the Brown Bookstore. "We had seen a real spike (of thefts) in the past weeks, and having that individual arrested reduced that."
Wong was reselling the stolen books at Cellar Stories Book Store downtown, Souza said. He will be prosecuted for felony shoplifting by the Department of the Attorney General, since this arrest marks his second shoplifting offense, and he stole more than $100 worth of merchandise, Shanley said.
The books Wong stole are located on the second floor of the bookstore, the most difficult floor for staff to monitor, Souza said. Because the first floor is heavily staffed and the basement has only one entrance point, they are easier to watch.
In response to the thefts, bookstore staff ramped up security by increasing the number of cameras and adjusting existing camera angles, Souza said. Bookstore employees monitored Wong on camera and in person while they waited for DPS to arrive on the scene.
Souza said the bookstore does not have a history of excessive thefts. In the past, the bookstore has lost less than 1 percent of its total sales to theft, a level most retailers strive for, he said. "But we do millions of dollars worth of business, so when you take 1 percent of that, it's still a substantial number," he said. "When you lose thousands, which we do, it hurts."
The bookstore will maintain its heightened level of security, Souza said. Theft cannot be completely eliminated, but it can be minimized, he said.
"You'd like to just do business. You'd like to just worry about having the right books and the right apparel," he said. "But (theft) is a reality of doing business."