A Baltimore woman has been charged as part of a theft ring that stole at least $17,000 worth of compact discs from at least 10 Anne Arundel County Public Library branches and public libraries in Howard and Baltimore counties, county police said yesterday.
Dawn Michelle Sizemore, 28, of the 2800 block of Washington Blvd. was arrested about 2 p.m. Thursday at the Southern District station, said Anne Arundel County Detective Tracy W. Williams.
Ms. Sizemore was charged with felony theft and released. Ten other Anne Arundel County library card holders may be involved in the theft scheme, police said.
The CDs were sold to a vendor at the Big Top Flea Market at Patapsco Avenue and Hollins Ferry Road in Baltimore. An Anne Arundel County library card holder told officials about the scheme March 19, said Diane Rey, a spokeswoman for the public library system.
After getting the tip, library workers contacted Nancy Choice, the library's head of administrative services. She went to the flea market and did her own investigation, Ms. Rey said.
Ms. Choice found CDs that had the county library marking and bought one for $5, said Ms. Rey. The librarian then checked to see if the CD was one the library had removed from circulation and sold, Ms. Rey said. The CD turned out to be in the county's active circulation file.
Ms. Choice then called Baltimore police, who confiscated 1,700 CDs at the flea market. About 1,300 of them belonged to the Anne Arundel County Public Library. The rest belonged to public libraries in Howard and Baltimore counties, Ms. Rey said.
The flea market vendor has not been charged with receiving stolen goods, said Detective Williams. The library borrowing privileges of the people being investigated have been frozen.
Library officials became suspicious about a week before they got the tip, Ms. Rey said. Several staff members reported people checking out 50 to 100 CDs at a time. Most of the CDs were by popular and rock 'n' roll artists, Ms. Rey said.
Some borrowers came in two days in a row and checked out large numbers of CDs.
But library staff members weren't certain of any illegal activity.
"We had nothing to go on at that point," Ms. Rey said. "The CDs were not overdue."
Ms. Rey said the CDs were worth about $10 each, but cautioned that her estimate was conservative.
Library staff began to get descriptions of the borrowers. One library even got a videotape of some of them, Ms. Rey said.
Those bits and pieces of information led Detective Williams to Ms. Sizemore, police said.
Detective Williams said Ms. Sizemore borrowed $8,120 worth of compact discs and sold them to a vendor at the flea market.
In light of the investigation, library officials are considering a new system with limits on how many items a patron can borrow, said Ms. Rey.
"Generally, we do not have a limit on the number of items a borrower can take at any one time," Ms. Rey said, adding that the library's computer system is not programmed to limit the number of items borrowed. The library has about 42,900 CDs circulating through its 15 branches.