Suzanne Grogan is offering some advice for others who use the popular computer terminals at the , after at least four thefts there since December: Focus your attention on your purse and/or wallet at all times.
“I was lucky that all they took was cash,” she says of the Dec. 10 theft of her purse, apparently snatched from her feet at one of the computer terminals. “All my ID and cards and keys were still there.”
Grogan’s purse was found in a trash can in the men’s restroom of the library -- along with a wallet belonging to someone else. She issued a warning on a story posted on Kirkland Patch in December about yet another theft at the library. In fact, Kirkland Police say at least four thefts have occurred at the library since the beginning of December, and possibly five.
Two of the thefts were reported on Kirkland Patch’s weekly police blotter report:
On Dec. 13, a brown leather bag containing $10, credit cards, a driver’s license and Social Security card was lifted from a 51-year-old Bellevue woman’s zipped coat pocket while she was using a library computer.
On Feb. 4, a leather wallet containing a debit/credit card was stolen from a 74-year-old Kirkland woman while she was at the computer terminals.
Kirkland Police Department spokesman Sgt. Rob Saloum says the four or five thefts at the library since December do not necessarily represent a trend, or that someone is specifically targeting library users. He says everyone needs to be cognizant at all times in any public place that thieves can and do strike when a person’s attention is diverted.
“It doesn’t matter if it is the library or Starbucks, when people feel comfortable, they let their guard down,” he explains. “There are people who will take advantage of situations like that.”
Grogan, a Kirkland resident, says she was working quietly at a library computer in December with her purse under the desk at her feet. “I got ready to get up and leave and the purse was not there,” she says. “A friend suggested I go look in the trash can in the restroom.”
She found nothing, but then asked a man to check the men’s room. He found not only her purse, but also inside was a purple billfold belonging to someone else, which Grogan turned in to the library lost and found.
She suspects the thief was someone sitting directly across from her on the other side of the computer tables. “It had to have been someone on the other side who reached in and grabbed it, with his foot or something like an umbrella,” she says.
She asked the librarian on duty to post warning signs on the computer tables. “She said ‘Oh no, you just have to be aware.’”
Library manager Aaron Oesting notes that signs are already posted at the library advising patrons not to leave their things unattended.
“I don’t know whether this is a pattern,” he says of the recent thefts. “In my experience, it certainly happens somewhat regularly, but no differently than any other public area. I’ve seen quite a number of cell phones disappear. But things disappear at many public places.”
Grogan did file a police report, says she enjoys the library and continues to use it regularly, but felt the librarian on duty at the time minimized the incident. “My impression was that I really felt dismissed,” she says.
The upshot, says KPD’s Saloum, is that it is up to the individual to look after his or her valuables. “Any time you’re put in public, you have to be aware constantly and remember, you can become a victim.”