Multiple students arrested this term for Duck Store shoplifting

Most University of Oregon students know the dreaded feeling of buying expensive textbooks from the Duck Store. Facing an average textbook cost of $1125 annually, some students are attempting to obtain textbooks in a less traditional way.

People attempt to steal from the Duck Store on a weekly basis, and textbooks are the most popular item, according to Casey Smith, the Duck Store’s loss prevention manager. But students who are considering saving money by slipping a textbook into their jacket next term may want to think twice.

“The Duck Store has the biggest loss prevention team in the Eugene area,” Smith said. “We have the best surveillance and camera system in town. It mimics most casinos.”

That surveillance system has led to the arrest of multiple UO students this term.

In January, Chase Ward, a 31-year-old general social science major, was booked into Lane County Jail and charged with second-degree theft. Ward was “identified by Duck Store loss prevention employees as having allegedly taken three textbooks without paying,” according to UOPD spokesman Kelly McIver.

Read our cover story on rising textbook prices here.

31-year-old UO student Chase Ward. (Oregon Crime News)

The Duck Store’s extensive camera system allows the loss prevention team to monitor every aisle of the store from multiple angles with powerful zoom capability, and catch alleged shoplifters like Ward. The system has led to 15 shoplifting busts at the Duck Store so far this term, according to the UOPD crime log.

Duck Store loss prevention employees are certified by the State of Oregon, and carry handcuffs and pepper spray. When a shoplifter is caught, he or she is detained at the Duck Store until police arrive. Smith says most cases simply result in a citation if the person is being cooperative. That isn’t always the case, however.

Another student was arrested on the evening of Feb. 8. Smith and another employee detained UO music major Haley Hanford, 18, after she left the Duck Store with unpaid items. According to the arrest report, Hanford bit Smith during the encounter. The Duck Store team had handcuffed her by the time UOPD arrived, and she was booked in Lane County Jail.

Hanford is being charged with fourth degree assault and third degree robbery, court records show. Third degree robbery is a Class C felony, carrying a maximum prison sentence of five years in Oregon.

18-year-old UO student Haley Hanford. (Lane County Courthouse)

Smith did not provide details of the encounter because the court case is ongoing, but confirmed that he was bitten on the shoulder and went to the emergency room for medical treatment.

According to Smith, most Duck Store shoplifters aren’t actually students. Smith estimates that about 60 percent of shoplifting offenders are non-students who are often transient or suffering from mental illness.

Smith wants to make sure people suffering from mental illness are aware of potential resources. The Duck Store has a page of mental illness resources posted in the room where shoplifters are detained.

“A lot of the offenders we see are suffering from mental illness, and jail isn’t the proper place for them to get treatment,” Smith said.

Smith says the number of shoplifters has been steady during his four-and-a-half years on the job. He says they may be making a few more arrests than when he started, which can be attributed to the upgraded, all-digital surveillance system.

Looking into the future, Smith doesn’t see the shoplifting problem going away anytime soon.

“I don’t think theft is ever going to end,” Smith said. “Our focus is on preventing as much as we can, and prioritizing the safety of our employees.”

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Jack Pitcher

Jack Pitcher

Jack Pitcher is the Editor in Chief of the Emerald. He's a business major and Trail Blazers fan.

Reach Jack at [email protected]