Local bookstore owners work together to stop thieves from steali - KPTV - FOX 12

Local bookstore owners work together to stop thieves from stealing rare books

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Local book sellers are working together to fight thieves who are stealing rare books and selling them for money. It's a problem that's costing them thousands of dollars every year in losses.

It's all sort of a difficult thing for shop owners to talk about because they don't necessarily want to be targeted any more than they already are. But, they say they're sharing what they are doing to protect their books so that maybe it makes thieves think twice.

Inside of the Crooked House Books and Paper shop in north Portland are books Rachelle Markley considers to be beautiful and unusual.

"I have pretty books, illustrated books, I like weird stuff," said Markley.

An $800 rare edition of Edgar Allen Poe's The Raven is one of those things, along with a $175 dollar pocket sized Victorian almanac from 1847.

"Even if we're selling expensive books, were not making money," said Markley. "We're not getting rich off this, we're doing it because it's important. You know, books have value they're important."

It's that value that Markley works to protect every day. She knows books are easy for people to take. And it happens all too often.

"Sometimes when it feels obvious, it turns out not to be," said Markley. "When someone gets away with it, it's because I didn't follow my gut, or get what's happening. Once, it was a cocktail book worth a few hundred dollars. That one I thought I realized who did it, and I chased him down and I checked his bag, but he didn't have it. I never figured out what happened."

Sometimes, she says, the really rare books will go out of circulation for a while before that thief tries to sell it to another buyer. But, more often than not Markley says a book thief will turn right back around and try to hawk it at another shop in town. Sometimes Powells, or sometimes at a shop like Daedalus Books in northwest Portland.

"I've seen people come in with 100 books that were clearly stolen," said owner Jeremy Breedlove.

Jeremy Breedlove is a colleague and friend of Markley's. They are also members of the Cascade Booksellers Association. A network of sellers in Oregon and Washington who provide support to each other and share information about thieves making the rounds.

"One thief had a jacket that he placed books inside, he had compartments for books that I saw when he ran out the door," said Breedlove.

Because of his past encounters with thieves, Breedlove keeps a lot of his valuable finds locked up in a secured room.

The group knows investigating a case of a missing book isn't a top priority for the Portland Police Bureau. So, they circulate their own photos of people to watch for and send out emails when they've spotted that person in their store.

They will also call a seller right away when someone tries to peddle a stolen book. Sometimes, they say, those sellers live clear across the country.

"There are big thieves that take big things and that become national news, and when that happens we all want to be aware because who knows where something is going to show back up," said Markley.

They've had success in thwarting some thieves, but know they can't catch them all. Still, this network of sellers is doing the best that they can to protect our society's historical literature.

"We will share information and we will do our very best to stop it because you know it's not good for any of us," said Markley. 

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