This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

November 20, 2002 - The DVD Gang

Let me tell you the story of the DVD gang.

A family -- a man, a woman, a child, and another man -showed up at one of our branch libraries. They presented Denver identification. Under our Colorado Library Card program, that was enough to get them all library cards with us.

They then proceeded to check out about 20 DVD's apiece.

A couple of days later, they showed up at another of our branches. Using their new cards, they repeated the performance.

A few days later, the same thing, at another branch.

Bottom line: over the course of a month, this roving band of film fans snapped up some 700 DVD's from Denver metro libraries.

Then, they tried to sell the DVD's to area pawn shops.

Just in case you're thinking: "how bold! Why didn't I think of that?" there are a few things you should consider.

First, it didn't take area libraries very long to figure out what was going on. Just about the time the DVD gang had finished its sweep of the area, all of us noticed that we'd been hit. Libraries quickly contacted each other. We then quickly organized the data: addresses, dates we'd been visited, what had been checked out on those dates, and what it was all worth. It was all sorted (as you might expect), alphabetically, too.

Second, patron confidentiality is no protection against theft. We contacted the police, who coordinated a multi-jurisdictional response.

Third, pawnshops are under some fairly strict police review. When the CD's got dumped, it didn't take long for the police to round up actual photographs of the culprits. It looks like we'll recover most of the items, too.

Fourth, although the DVD Gang then fled ahead of all the overdue notices, they have also now got credit records and police bulletins waiting for them. They're looking at a host of unhappy consequences, probably including restitution, fines, and perhaps jail time. All for what will turn out to be just a little bit of money.

Fifth, because of all this, we've reviewed our policies. We also did a database analysis. The average patron rarely checks out more than a handful of DVD's at a time. (This also reflects the fact that this is a new collection for us, so is often picked over.) So we've installed a new limit: each patron may only check out 7 DVD's on his or her card per session. That's one a day.

But here's something else worth remembering. All of the libraries agreed that by far, in overwhelming numbers, our patrons are actually very good. We get back a huge percentage of what we check out. We always have.

Our policies should, and do, reflect the usual honesty of the public, rather than the suspicion and paranoia that might be engendered by such reprobates as the DVD Gang. Just because a few of us are dim and desperate, doesn't mean that all of us should be treated that way.

So remember, folks, you read it here. Crime doesn't pay. Thoughtfulness and civic virtue, do.

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