Los Angeles: Los Angeles police detectives arrested a 43-year-old career criminal in a sting at the downtown Central Library yesterday, April 1, 2010, after he swiped an Ipod, placed on a table by an undercover cop.
“Thefts at the library are too common place, and we want to send a message to thieves: think twice before you take someone’s stuff.”
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 5PM,” Lt. Vernon explained.
An undercover officer set a laptop on the table, then an Ipod on top of the computer and walked away. In a matter of minutes, Anthony Eugene Johnson approached the table twice, intent on the items. On a third pass, he emerged from the stacks, then 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 book shelves 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% increase. Bike thefts more than doubled to eight for the year. The most common items taken at the library are 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 anytime they grab an Ipod, it might belong to a cop,” Lt. 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. Anonymous tips can be called into Crimestoppers at 800-222-TIPS (8477), or by texting 274637 (C-R-I-M-E-S on most keypads) with a cell phone. All text messages should begin with the letters “LAPD.” Online tips may be placed at www.LAPDOnline.org, click on “webtips” and follow the prompts.