Couple arrested for overdue books at local library

By: 
MEGAN LINSKI

Tecumseh District Library. Photo by Jim Lincoln.

Tecumseh residents Cathy and Melvin Duren were arrested on Friday, April 8, after they failed to return two books checked out of the Tecumseh District Library (TDL). In July 2014, the couple’s son used their library card to check out “A Hatful of Seuss.” In April 2015, Cathy checked out “The Rome Prophecy.”

In December 2015, the Durens received a fourth letter from the TDL asking them to return the books and pay the overdue fees, or pay the replacement costs if they couldn’t locate the books. The Durens returned “The Rome Prophecy,” but not the Dr. Seuss book. The TDL turned the case over to the Economic Crimes Unit of the Lenawee County Proescuters Office, where Detective Robert Kellogg left multiple messages on the couple’s voicemail to pay the library costs, as well as pay a $105 diversion fee each to avoid prosecution.

The Tecumseh Police Department (TPD) arrived at the Durens home last Friday to serve the arrest warrants. The investigation was conducted by the Lenawee County Prosecutor’s Office, which contacted the Tecumseh Police Department (TPD) and asked if they would serve the warrant or attempt to facilitate the surrender of Cathy and Melvin.

“We didn’t take them into physical custody,” TPD Chief Troy Stern said. “We notified them that the warrant was there and advised them to turn themselves in.”

Cathy and Melvin went to the TPD, where they paid off a $100 bond associated with each warrant.

“When an order is signed by a judge, we as police officers have no discretion or leeway on who we can or can’t take in,” Stern said. “We just facilitated the arrest. There was no investigation by us personally.”

Cathy and Melvin failed to appear at a scheduled interview on Tuesday, April 12 with The Herald. The Durens declined to be interviewed at all the following day.

In a report from Channel 7 news, Cathy said her money order to cover the fines and the replacement cost of the book was refused because she would not pay the additional $210 in diversion fees to the prosecutor’s crime unit.

“It’s extortion,” Cathy told Channel 7 news.

“I don’t think we should have never [sic] been held for a crime we didn’t commit,” Melvin said in a report with NBC 24. “As of right now, they have the book, they have the fee, you know, I don’t get it.”

Gayle Hazelbaker, director of the Tecumseh District Library, says the procedure for working with patrons who don’t return missing books is lengthy and offers plenty of room to fix the issue. Patrons will receive a letter or email after an item is 14 days overdue. After an item is 28 days overdue, the library will send out a second letter. When it has been 60 days after the second notice, patrons will receive a third letter. Patrons have 10 days to respond to the third letter before the library will send out a final certified letter stating that the patron has 10 days to come into the library and speak with the staff. If no contact is made, the case gets turned over to the ECU.

“After we report it to the ECU, our hands are tied,” Hazelbaker said.

Hazelbaker said the library lost tens of thousands of dollars in unreturned books each year before they began turning cases over to the ECU. “It’s definitely a last resort, and we take very seriously our responsibility to the taxpayer,” Hazelbaker said.

“Unfortunately, our losses were so huge until the ECU program became available. As good stewards of the tax dollar, we need them to investigate.”

In the 2013-2014 year at the TDL, there were 248 items overdue from 98 patrons, which amounted in a $5,816 replacement cost for those items and $3,061 in unpaid fines. In the five-year period between 2007 and 2013, 1,630 items were overdue from 689 patrons, amounting in $32,451 in replacement costs and $20,138 in unpaid fines.

“We’re all taxpayers here, and it was making us heartsick to see all that money spent just be washed away because we would have to replace material,” Hazelbaker said. “We’re not talking about fines here. We just wanted the material back. We will work with patrons if they can’t afford to pay the fine back, even if it’s a dollar a month or something like that. We only turn people over to the ECU if they have material we need to get back.”

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Tecumseh Herald

 

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Tecumseh, MI 49286
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