Iowa woman arrested for keeping library book

An Independence woman was arrested on theft charges Thursday for failing to return a library book.

Shelly J. Koontz, 39, was arrested just after 8 p.m. at her residence after a warrant had been issued. She was originally charged with fifth-degree theft for keeping "The Freedom Writers Diary," which she checked out from the Jesup Public Library in April 2008.

Jesup Police Chief Rick Deitrick said the book was valued at $13.95.

"Theft is theft, no matter what it is," Deitrick said.

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Will we get context?

This book has caused furors in the past over whether it's suitable for high school use, and the woman has a teenager. So maybe she just forgot or maybe it's like the Bunny Suicides and this is how she was deliberately keeping it out of the collection.

What a was of tax dollars.

You would think the police would have something better to do with their time than to arrest a women for a stupid library book that no one cares about. Get real $13.95 for a book and i'm sure it cost more than that in tax dollars to drive to her house and arrest her and book her and all of that crap.

While the cop is arresting her for a library book someone else is on the other side of town selling meth which is a much higher crime. Seems to me the cops in this town don't have anything else better to do than to pick on a women for a dumb book.

So that's what I think about this arrest. To put insult to injury when the guy said Theft is theft, no matter what it is," Deitrick said. What a retard he is. She didn't steal the book in the first place. She rented it and never returned it. There is a big difference there.

Stealing is when you take something that wasn't yours. Renting doesn't count. I hope the barney 5 cop that arrested this women feels stupid as a box of rocks. Thought he thinks he did a wonderful job arresting a women for a stupid book. WOW Congrats you done such a great job catching a high crime criminal.

To make a long story short it's dumb to arrest people for non sense like this.

Thank you for keeping the book thefts off the street retard cop.

Notice

If she had not ignored the four phone calls, three letters and one certified letter that the library sent the police would not have been involved. After four phone calls, three letters and one certified letter what would you have liked the library to do?

Theft is theft...

Okay, I'm replying to the first of your two responses, assuming that the second one might get deleted because it is a duplicate. To address your particular writing style, I just have two comments. One, it's woman, not women. Singular, not plural. Second, your repeated use of the word 'retard' is offensive and uncalled for. If you don't agree with someone's statement or actions, there is no need to call names. Please be civil.

Now on to the original topic. While I might agree that this is a waste of police resources and tax dollars, that doesn't mean that this woman shouldn't be held responsible for her actions, or rather her inaction in not returning the book and ignoring several notices. I might argue that the library might have the police arrest the patrons that have several long-overdue items and not just one book. That might be less of a waste of resources and money.

Who says renting doesn't count? And who said you 'rent' books from the library? 'Rent' implies a charge or fee. Library books, generally, are free to 'borrow'. 'Borrow' implies returning the item. Theft is theft. She took something and didn't return it. She didn't pay for it. Theft is theft. (Of course, legally, there are degrees of theft. That's a distinction on punishment, not on the definition of theft.)

So, someone 'borrows' a library book (which is City property, by the way), and does not return it. The library has to recoup the loss of that item (since it was paid for by taxes, and those pesky taxpayers get in a tizzy about wasting tax dollars). Most people unfamiliar with the behind-the-scenes of libraries don't understand just how hard it is to get library books back or how much effort, time and money is involved. First, the overdue notices, many returned as undeliverable, no forwarding address, etc. Next, the phone calls, only to get wrong numbers or countless answering machines because of caller ID. Other letters such as certified letters, letters from the City attorney, letters from the district attorney. And still the items are not returned. But, if a library does none of those things to get items back, many people rant about the "waste of tax dollars" in allowing these books, paid for by taxes, to disappear. The Catch-22 of public libraries.

P.S. The original link to the article now has an updated article, with an interview from the woman. Her reason for not returning the book was too busy to return it and had been in the process of moving to a new town. For those of us that work in public libraries, how many times have we heard that one?

Who Decides on Arrest

The library does not have anyone arrested. All they do is report an incident. A prosecutor and police decide if someone should be arrested.

It was not my intention to

It was not my intention to imply that the library arrests people. Perhaps my wording could have been more precise. Instead of saying "library could have the police arrest", I should have said that the library should have filed complaints against those with more items out or more costly items. Sorry for the confusion.

What?

You said "Stealing is when you take something that wasn't yours." That is EXACTLY what she did. "Renting" involves payment for short term use. Does your library rent books because I have never seen one that does? Everyone I know of lends books. Once you keep it and not return it, it becomes theft based on the laws of that community.

What a waste of tax dollars.

You would think the police would have something better to do with their time than to arrest a women for a stupid library book that no one cares about. Get real $13.95 for a book and i'm sure it cost more than that in tax dollars to drive to her house and arrest her and book her and all of that crap.

While the cop is arresting her for a library book someone else is on the other side of town selling meth which is a much higher crime. Seems to me the cops in this town don't have anything else better to do than to pick on a women for a dumb book.

So that's what I think about this arrest. To put insult to injury when the guy said Theft is theft, no matter what it is," Deitrick said. What a retard he is. She didn't steal the book in the first place. She rented it and never returned it. There is a big difference there.

Stealing is when you take something that wasn't yours. Renting doesn't count. I hope the barney 5 cop that arrested this women feels stupid as a box of rocks. Thought he thinks he did a wonderful job arresting a women for a stupid book. WOW Congrats you done such a great job catching a high crime criminal.

To make a long story short it's dumb to arrest people for non sense like this.

Thank you for keeping the book thefts off the street retard cop.

You are so very wrong in so many ways.

You would think the police would have something better to do with their time than to arrest a women for a stupid library book that no one cares about.

The woman was arrested on a warrant issued by a judge. It was not the officer's discretion to not arrest the woman; doing so would be violating an order from the Court.

Get real $13.95 for a book and i'm sure it cost more than that in tax dollars to drive to her house and arrest her and book her and all of that crap.

The police are working anyway, the jail is open if this woman is not arrested and the deputies are being paid. There was actually no increased cost to the citizens for arresting this woman.

While the cop is arresting her for a library book someone else is on the other side of town selling meth which is a much higher crime.

Certainly there are other crimes going on right now, but since the police are not omnipresent they must allocate their resources as best as they can. Dealing with the theft of the taxpayers' property was a concern that was addressed when an officer was available to do so.

Seems to me the cops in this town don't have anything else better to do than to pick on a women for a dumb book.

It seems to me that you fail to grasp that the arrest warrant was issued by a judge and executed as per the Court's order. The officers have no discretion when they come into contact with someone with an arrest warrant about which they are aware. The woman was not picked on, in fact if you read the article she notes she was at fault. If you are concerned about the law a legislative change is in order, not your whinging about the police doing the job the taxpayers pay them to do.

So that's what I think about this arrest.

How nice for you.

To put insult to injury when the guy said Theft is theft, no matter what it is," Deitrick said. What a retard he is. She didn't steal the book in the first place. She rented it and never returned it. There is a big difference there.

Here is where you begin to demonstrate your lack of understanding. Keeping something you borrow is indeed theft as the term is commonly understood. Failure to return library materials is addressed in (inter alia) Iowa Code §714.5.

Stealing is when you take something that wasn't yours. Renting doesn't count.

You continue to use the term renting, the laws about rented property and the failure to return rented property are actually more strict (Iowa Code §714.1(2)(a)) in that they only allow 72 hours for the property to be returned after the rental period ends before law enforcement action may be instituted. However your use of the term rental is incorrect as library materials are not rented, but borrowed and covered under a different section of the Code.

You may also be interested in the criminal and civil law regarding theft by conversion, which stated simply makes it a criminal offense, as well as common law tort to take the property of another and convert it to your own. Even if not specifically enumerated in statute this may be charged as a common law offense (except in Louisiana which does not include the common law by statute as do the other states – but you still can’t steal library books in Louisiana.) .

I hope the barney 5 cop that arrested this women feels stupid as a box of rocks.

Speaking of stupid as a box of rocks, the phrase you probably mean is Barney Fife, not barney 5.

Thought he thinks he did a wonderful job arresting a women for a stupid book. WOW Congrats you done such a great job catching a high crime criminal.

That almost incomprehensible utterance is hardly worth a response, but since we are having such a good time I may as well remind you that it is the officer's job to carry out the orders of the Court. Indeed he was doing an admirable job, just as catching a serial killer, or directing traffic around a downed power line would be dogged performance of his duties. It is the job the taxpayers pay him to do, and doing it well is admirable.

To make a long story short it's dumb to arrest people for non sense like this.

Thank you for keeping the book thefts off the street retard cop.

It is probably best not to refer to others as "Retard," when you cannot correctly spell nonsense or use the word thieves correctly.

Thank you Matt

Matt, thank you for that.
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Frightening

The woman was arrested on a warrant issued by a judge. It was not the officer's discretion to not arrest the woman; doing so would be violating an order from the Court.

True. However, his/her point still stands. Issuing an arrest warrant because of an overdue library book isn't just a waste of resources, it's frightening.

The core issue here is someone owing money. What is normally done in such cases? The person is sent to a collection agency.

What kind of state are we becoming that we turn to the police in order to solve something this trivial? Well, I just said it. Think about it.

How is it frightening for a

How is it frightening for a city to file a criminal complaint on the theft of its property? That's what library books are: City property.

Wait

I thought the police state you allude to in a back-handed way was supposed to have disappeared with the inauguration of President Obama. You mean it isn't gone even with the Republicans effectively out of power and unable to have any impact in the federal government?
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Re: the "police state" (to paraphrase)

"What kind of state are we becoming that we turn to the police in order to solve something this trivial? Well, I just said it. Think about it."

I did think about it and I believe the answer is "A state that follows rules and uses the police as a last resort." SEVEN attempts were made to handle this without bringing the law into the situation to no avail. If not resorting to the law, letting it go, or continued attempts that a rational person has no reason to believe would give any better results seem to be about the only remaining options. When reasonable recourse is exhausted, that is the perfect time to turn to legal measures.

While I'll grant that $14 is an extreme level, triviality is still a matter of opinion. To the best of my limited knowledge, there is no such thing as a trivial amount, legally speaking. This is why there a different degrees or classes of crimes, ensuring in the worst case the offender will not be punished as a car thief might, for example.

If the law were to define amounts as trivial, i.e. not to be pursued, then there is little more than personal honor to prevent anyone from stealing from a library or shoplifting small ticket items.

The fact that someone seems to have believed that it is up to her discretion to determine which agreements to live up to and which to break is at the core of this issue. Not letting someone get away with breaking a promise to the people (this is a city-owned library) is exactly a legitimate purpose for the police.

Very mistaken

"Theft is theft, no matter what it is," Deitrick said.

Whoa.

This sounds like the crazy thinking behind the three strikes law.

No civilized society would ever equate the theft of an unreturned library book with the theft of a $500,000 from a bank vault and that's where this guy seems to be going.

I'm shocked that anyone would defend this kind of thinking. The woman should be punished in some other way. It's a book worth less than $14.00. Strip her of her borrowing rights.

Deny borrowing rights?

What good would it do to "strip her of her borrowing rights"? She obviously hadn't used her borrowing "rights" since checking out that book. Wow, that's some punishment. That sure will encourage her to brink back the book.

And theft is theft by definition. I steal a pack of gum or a Plasma TV, it's still stealing. This woman borrowed something that didn't belong to her. She refused to return it or to make compensation for it (ignoring notices is a passive refusal). That's theft. Now the distinction in a library book and $500,000 from a bank is in the degree of punishment. Which you do seem to point to in your last paragraph. But, just taking away her borrowing privilege (not rights) wouldn't get that book back. Overdue notices, certified letters, phone calls, visits to her house didn't get the book back.

Theft is theft. Degree is degree.

You are correct that stealing $500,000 would not be equated to stealing $14. That is why many criminal designations further delineate the degree of the crime. This ensures that she will not face the same punishment that the bank robber would.

What she did, however nominal the amount, is still a form of theft. For this crime, I'm guessing she's in the vicinity of time served, court time and a small fine (though likely more than the library was assessing). But rest assured, she's not going to spend ten years in the penitentiary.

People like that should be

People like that should be made to pay the costs of bringing the case to court etc, then maybe people might listen.

It's not the cost it's the added publicity to get people to bring stock back. How many overdue books etc got brought back after this was in the media?

Wow, that's some punishment.

Wow, that's some punishment. That sure will encourage her to brink back the book.

It will make sure that she never uses the library again. That should be the goal.

It's a $13.00 book and it's not worth involving the police. In fact, just thinking about that makes me laugh out loud. It's insane. Totally insane.

You know...stripping someone of his/her borrowing rights is pretty severe. From now on she'll have to buy her books. That's how she will pay.

We need to reserve the police for more serious issues.

The Goal?

"It will make sure that she never uses the library again. That should be the goal."

The goal should be the recovery of City property or getting reimbursed for the property. The goal should be educating her and other library patrons to return their books and the reason behind the need for having the books back. The goal should be teaching her and others to be responsible library patrons. Yes, lofty goals, I know.

And your "goal" works on the "One strike, you're out" principle. So one mistake, one fine and that's it. No more library card! Geez...

What if this one library book was an expensive reference book, many of which cost hundreds of dollars? What if it was a first edition, valued in the thousands of dollars? Where do you draw the line at cost of a single item? What's worth trying to recover and what's not? Wait, if the library hadn't done anything to recover this book, people would be complaining about the waste of tax dollars in the loss of this item.

I'm not agreeing that that she should have been arrested for one book. She didn't respond to the library's efforts to get the book back. The library itself had done all it could possibly do. They had to turn it over to an agency that could do more. Personally, I think it should have been sent to collections or small claims court. But I do agree that the library should make every effort possible to recover any overdue materials.

Personally, I think it

Personally, I think it should have been sent to collections or small claims court.

I don't even think it warrants that. For one, it would cost too much money...for a $13.00 book. Now, if this had been an expensive reference book that would be different. Send her to a collection agency.

And your "goal" works on the "One strike, you're out" principle. So one mistake, one fine and that's it. No more library card! Geez...

It's a cheap, effective solution. If she had contacted the library and tried to solve the problem that would be different. However, she didn't. So, take away her card.

Wait, if the library hadn't done anything to recover this book, people would be complaining about the waste of tax dollars in the loss of this item.

Then someone would need to explain to the public how wasting taxpayer money on going after a woman for a $13.00 book isn't a good solution.

What frightens me about this is that someone actually felt that it was a police matter. I could make a case that such thinking is far more anti-social than that of the book thief.

Solutions

If she was taken to court, she would have to pay court costs...thereby negating the claim that it simply costs too much to take her to court.

On the surface, this is a

On the surface, this is a trivial matter, but the deeper issue is a matter of precedent and consequence. Many, if not most laws are not "worth it" in terms of what is spent recouping what is lost. Much of the purpose of the law is seldom a business decision of return on investment ("Will we spend less than $13 recovering the book?"). It is a matter of punishing the perpetrator not only to deter/reform them, but to serve as an example to prevent others from following their lead.

By extremely hyperbolized example, prosecuting a man for killing his wife in a fit of rage is in the same category. No punishment or fine will restore what was lost so you're throwing away money after to do so.

Somewhat less absurdly, if your argument is solely around monetarily measurable loss, then who decides what is acceptable. Is it the offender? By that token, you'd be indicating that a millionnaire should be allowed to drive a car off the lot and never pay for it. To him $40,000 has little more impact to his 7-figure portfolio than $13 does to the book thief's bank account.

Should the law set some amount that is not prosecutable? To set such a threshold would allow me to put $13 dollars worth of gas in my car and drive away whenever I wanted or dine and dash on a whim.

This is why there is no minimum threshold to what constitutes a crime. A crime is a crime is a crime. The amount then factors into the degree and therefore punishment of the crime.

Costs

Why would it cost too much? The costs would be passed on to the woman. And collection agencies costs money as well.

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