Public Libraries Face Thefts of Assets, Especially DVDs

DVDs have flown off the shelves at Detroit, Michigan's Clinton-Macomb Public Library within the past year.

And it's not because cardholders have checked them out.

Little by little, seasons of "Sex and the City" and "The West Wing" vanished along with "Ben-Hur" and children's films until the number of missing DVDs hit 1,000, library director Christine Lind Hage said Thursday.

The staff was mystified.

But when a library patron noticed several movies with Clinton-Macomb's labels at Gamestop in Shelby Township, library employees took matters into their own hands.

In December, the staff of the main library and its two branches in Clinton and Macomb townships, searched eight stores and one pawnshop in Macomb County and recovered nearly 300 DVDs. They tackled the task because police typically don't hunt down petty theft items, Lind Hage said.

"It's not like someone walked out with a million-dollar diamond," she said.

But their work paid off. Library employees reported their findings to police, who reviewed store surveillance tapes and arrested a suspect.

A preliminary exam is set Tuesday for Valantino Galafati, 19, of Macomb Township, who was arrested by Clinton Township police on charges of receiving and concealing stolen property worth $1,000 to $20,000. He was arraigned Dec. 21 at 41B District Court and released on a $15,000 bond.

Galafati was caught on surveillance tapes selling the stolen goods at several Gamestops, police said. Store employees told library workers that, although some movies had residue from peeled labels, they weren't aware the items were stolen.

Police said Galafati is expected to spend time in other courtrooms, too, since the library's movies were discovered in Eastpointe, Roseville and Utica.

Utica Police Detective Sean Coady said Wednesday the Macomb County Prosecutor's Office is expected to process a warrant for him based on the crimes in Utica. He will be charged with possession of stolen property worth more than $1,000, Coady said. The warrant was not authorized by Thursday.

Galafati has been charged in other warrants for separate pending cases, such as assault with intent to rob, said Dean Alan, chief of warrants at the Prosecutor's Office.

The DVD crime spree, however, is an example of a larger issue.

"It's a national problem -- it's not a local issue," Lind Hage said, adding that a DVD or CD can be enticing to thieves. "It's very small. They slip into a book or a pant pocket."

In the fall, 56 DVDs worth $2,400 were stolen from the Shelby Township Library. Movies like "Schindler's List" and "Citizen Kane" were ripped from their cases, said Judi Chambers, library director.

That prompted the library to plan on spending around $4,000 on new security cases that would make them harder to steal.

But at the Clinton-Macomb Public Library, the cases were taken with the movies. Lind Hage said security cameras are outside, but none are inside.

On Wednesday, the library's Board of Directors authorized a $100 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of thieves.