After a pair of black women’s Ugg boots was left overnight at the Michigan Union, the owner of the trendy boots returned Monday to find her $150 boots gone.
The disappearance of the Ugg boots raises a sticky dilemma: If the boots were left unattended overnight, is taking them a crime? Or is it a matter of finders keepers?
According to Diane Brown, spokeswoman for the Department of Public Safety, followers of this playground rule should think twice before grabbing unattended property. Even if property is left for long periods of time, taking it is still a crime.
In the case of the Ugg boots, Brown said DPS would treat the crime as a larceny because it occurred in a public building that is accessible and open to the public. The penalties for larceny vary depending on the value of the property stolen.
The theft is a misdemeanor if the value of the item is estimated to be less than $200. In this case, the crime could be punishable by up to 93 days in jail or a fine of either $500 or three times the value of the stolen property, whichever is greater.
If the value of the property is estimated to be between $200 and $1,000, the theft is considered a misdemeanor as well. In this case, however, the theft is punishable by up to one year in jail or by a fine of either $2,000 or three times the value of the stolen property, whichever is greater.
Brown clarified that a theft is classified as a burglary when someone breaks into a private space and steals an item, while a robbery occurs when the item is stolen directly from the owner.
Brown said regardless of when the property is found, it should be reported to police or turned into the building’s lost and found.
For instance, at the Michigan Union, all items found in the building and on the front steps should be turned in to the Campus Information Center’s front desk, said Amy Watson, the center’s assistant manager.
“It is not your property and you did not report it,” Watson said. “It will be considered stealing.”
The front desk stores lost and found items for one week before they are turned into DPS, thrown out or donated to charity, depending on the item’s value and condition.
Watson said the front desk also attempts to contact the owner if there is some form of identification with the property, such as when a wallet or an iPod are turned in.
Susan Pile, director of the Union, had one last piece of advice for students.
“Don’t leave your things unattended, even for a minute or two.”