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Who Steals?

Knowing who has committed theft of historical records in the past, and under what circumstances, can help guard against theft in the future. The State Archives conducted a review of 411 cases of historical records theft. Our findings reveal recurring patterns of demographics, motivation, and behavior among historical records thieves.

Consider this

  • Almost all historical records thefts are committed by employees, volunteers, or researchers.
  • Almost all employees, volunteers, and researchers are not thieves.
  • Almost all the people who exhibit the characteristics, feelings, and behaviors described under Common Characteristics and Warning Signs are not thieves.
  • Therefore, if you notice warning signs in an employee, volunteer, or researcher who matches common characteristics, be alert but not suspicious.

Insider and Researcher Theft

Individuals already connected with the repository, usually employees or volunteers, account for over half of the occurrences of historical records theft. Insiders may include executive, administrative, program, facilities, and security staff; program volunteers, board members, donors, and interns; or anyone else with an official role at the organization. Researchers authorized by the repository to use historical records account for nearly all the other instances of theft.

Stories of past thefts can be valuable tools for distinguishing the profile of a historical records thief within the context of a complex event or series of events. While no profile will apply all of the time, cases described in blogs listed in the bibliography illustrate several patterns typical of historical records thieves. 

Common Characteristics
Learn about demographic and other characteristics common among historical records thieves.

Warning Signs
Be familiar with the common motivations and behaviors that may be exhibited by potential thieves. These warning signs will help indicate when additional monitoring and action may be necessary to prevent or identify theft.