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Richmond bookstore faces another theft by heroin addicts

Published: February 28, 2013, 1:16 am ET
Collegian Staff

The University Bookstore fell victim this month to another incident of textbook theft by heroin addicts.

Four books valued at $767 total were stolen at 12:04 p.m. on Feb. 2, campus investigator Tim Mihalcoe said. More than two weeks later, campus police arrested John Joseph Holmes, 30, on a charge of conspiracy to commit grand larceny. Holmes was released on bond. The other suspect, a woman, is still free.

Campus detective Patrick Meacham arrested Holmes near his Montpelier, Va., home at a gas station. Holmes is charged with acting as a lookout and driver for the pair.

The bookstore employees had noticed the suspects’ questionable behavior in the store, Meacham said, and an employee was able to follow them to Holmes’ car and write down its license plate number.

The car was licensed under Holmes’ name, he said, with the help of former coworkers and friends in the Hanover County Police Department and sheriff’s office, he was able to track Holmes down. After staking out Holmes’ house with Hanover police officers, Meacham said, the suspect was arrested at a nearby gas station after he had left the house.

The female suspect’s name would not be released until she had been positively identified, Meacham said, but with the cooperation of Holmes, the campus investigators have a lead. Holmes said that she had already sold the stolen textbooks, Meacham said.

Holmes admitted to being addicted to heroin, Meacham said, and that he’d been involved in the theft to fund this addiction. Since the fall semester of 2010, there has been at least one reported incident of drug-related larceny from the bookstore each semester, Meacham said, except in the spring of 2012. In all of those cases, he said, the thieves ended up being heroin addicts. The books usually stolen during these crimes were expensive math, science or technology books, he said.

Unlike Virginia Commonwealth University’s bookstore, Meacham said, the University of Richmond’s Bookstore does not keep its books behind a counter, making it an easier target for thieves.

The University Police Department and the bookstore have worked together to prevent theft, he said. Some of the more commonly stolen books are stamped with invisible ink to track illegal resales, Meacham said, and bookstore employees have been trained to watch for suspicious behavior, such as crouching and furtive glancing. There are three surveillance cameras in the bookstore linked directly to the campus police station, General Manager Roger Brooks said, and he has asked for a fourth.

Textbook theft has been a growing trend nationwide, Meacham said, citing a 2007 study by a police officer at the University of Wisconsin. Meacham had been in regular contact with textbook retailers in the Richmond area about this problem, he said. Books stolen were often resold to independent textbook stores that don’t require an ID card, he said, such as Bookholders LLC.

Meacham has organized an email listserv that textbook retailers can use to send out information about stolen books and suspicious resales, he said, and now every textbook retailer in the Richmond area is part of it, along with other university bookstores in Virginia. He also began organizing annual summer meetings with police from various universities citywide to discuss potential solutions and prevention starting in 2011, he said.

Contact staff writer Ben Panko at

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  • Jonathan Holljes

    Wow so 4 books are worth more than a big screen TV and a lot easier to transport. My question is where do you fence Text books. Could you imagine what Rick would say at Pawn Stars if you walked in with a Chemistry book all about tertiary structures of enzymes and how the influence of temperature changes the active site? ” not a big demand for that , I’ll give you $20 bucks!”