Bookstore shoplifter sells T-shirts for drugs

by Beacon Staff • February 20, 2008

Lt. Eric Schiazza said on Feb. 2, four red and blue shirts made by Jones Mitchell Sportswear Inc.,Eighteen Emerson T-shirts were shoplifted from the college's Barnes Noble bookstore in two separate incidents this month, according to Emerson Public Safety officials.

Lt. Eric Schiazza said on Feb. 2, four red and blue shirts made by Jones Mitchell Sportswear Inc. were taken from 114 Boylston St.

Five days later, fourteen more shirts were shoplifted from a display shelf. That same day bookstore employees reported seeing a man they suspected of stealing the T-shirts on Feb. 2 near the store and called Emerson police.

Schiazza said the man, who was caught with stolen merchandise from another store, said he stole the Emerson T-shirts to fund his crack-cocaine addiction.

The suspect has no proven connection to the Feb. 7 incident.

"He had the desire to support a drug habit and he was looking for something of value to sell on the street," said Deputy Chief Scott Bornstein.

Schiazza said Barnes Noble employees have their own training for dealing with and spotting shoplifters and suspicious customers. He said the bookstore has no security cameras, but Emerson police regularly patrol the Barnes Noble as part of their shifts.

The recent shoplifting incidents were the first reported thefts since June 5, 2007, when someone tried to sell back a stolen book. The lifting of Emerson College T-shirts specifically have left some students puzzled.

Senior marketing communication major Jolie Jankowitz said she doesn't understand why people would choose to steal gear from Emerson over bigger schools like Harvard and Boston University.

Bornstein said it's possible the shoplifter was trying to sell the Emerson T-shirts to tourists. Schiazza said Public Safety officers plan to investigate street vendors selling Emerson shirts in Downtown Crossing.

Bookstore Manager Ted Fannon said dealing with shoplifting is one aspect of operating any clothing store.

"All retail stores are faced with the same day-to-day challenges," Fannon said in an e-mail message.

David Kaye, the father of an Emerson sophomore marketing communication major, said he proudly wears a T-shirt he bought from the Barnes Noble last year. "Emerson Dad" is printed on the front of the shirt.

"I feel flattered that someone wants to steal our Emerson T-shirts and sell them on the black market," Kaye said. "I guess that puts us on the same level as the knock-off designer hand bags."

Managers at the Tufts University and Simmons College bookstores have called Emerson to notify them of people shoplifting from their stores, according to Public Safety.

When the merchandise was first taken from Emerson's Barnes Noble two weeks ago, the description of the suspect given by campus bookstore employees matched a person wanted for stealing from a Tufts University bookstore.

"Stealing T-shirts to support a crack addiction is just absurd," said Nick Coit, a freshman broadcast journalism major. "Somebody needs to seek some help."