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Newspaper thief

It’s a crime that’s, sadly, become all too common. But police in New Mexico are trying to stop one alleged perpetrator in her tracks.

The crime is newspaper theft. Sunday newspapers, specifically, because they’re the ones with all the coupons inside.

Police in Farmington, New Mexico are appealing to the public for help, in finding a woman who’s been stealing dozens of Sunday newspapers. They’ve released the above surveillance photos, which show the same woman on two different occasions, stopping by a Valero gas station shortly after it closes at midnight. She walks up to the newspaper rack when she thinks no one is looking, and departs with an armful of Farmington Daily Times newspapers.

It only happens on Sundays, and it’s been happening for at least the past few weeks. Police say she’s made off with nearly thirty newspapers – at least – and that’s just from this one location. There’s no telling whether she’s hitting up other newspaper racks in town while making her late-night rounds.

If you’re going to steal stacks of newspapers, after all, why stop at just thirty?

Police are not officially speculating on a motive, but most people’s hunch is that she either has a lot of bird cages to line – or she’s in it for the coupons.

“We cannot have those coupons circulating in the public if they’re not sold,” the Times’ circulation manager Julie Gambell told KRQE-TV. “For our audit, we have to make sure that all unsold papers are back and all unsold coupons in those papers need to come back to our place of business.”

Some commenters on the Farmington Police Department’s Facebook page wondered whether police have bigger fish to fry, than to go after someone who takes $2 newspapers after they’ve already sat there unsold all day long. “Don’t worry about the panhandlers, gangsters, thieves that steal from mall cars, violence in bad neighborhoods… let’s catch the lady stealing papers,” one wrote.

“It is a big deal,” police department spokesperson Georgette Allen countered. “This individual is stealing from a business, so somebody is paying for that, so it’s still a crime.”

It’s the gas station itself that has to pay the price. Its owners have to reimburse the paper for every unsold edition that goes missing. So it’s not a victimless crime.

And it is a crime. “If it wasn’t a crime,” Gambell wondered, “then why are you doing it in the middle of the night and not buying a paper?”

Unless she has a very large family, or an insatiable desire to feed her stockpile, what would this woman need with dozens of coupon inserts? One might reasonably suspect she’s not using all of them herself. Other newspaper thieves have been busted for allegedly stealing inserts in order to sell them. Others have gotten more sophisticated, and skip the vending machines in order to deal directly with those on the inside who can hook them up with hundreds or thousands of coupon inserts on demand.

Compared to those rackets, the Farmington woman’s operation is pretty small potatoes. Still, police are hoping someone recognizes her and turns her in, or that she gives herself up before she gets in deeper trouble. As long as she’s taken fewer than 250 newspapers, worth $500, her crime is a misdemeanor. More than that, and she faces felony charges. So she might want to quit while she’s ahead.

Or better yet, look for coupons in a different paper. As some local couponers point out, there’s a free weekly paper in the area that carries coupon inserts. So if she has such a hankering for coupons, the newspaper-swiping suspect doesn’t really need to target the Daily Times at all.

If nothing else, the publicity alone may be enough to get her to stop. If she strikes again this weekend, a whole lot of people will now be watching.

Image source: Farmington Police Department

One Comment

  1. “We cannot have those coupons circulating in the public if they’re not sold,” the Times’ circulation manager Julie Gambell told KRQE-TV. “For our audit, we have to make sure that all unsold papers are back and all unsold coupons in those papers need to come back to our place of business.”

    This made me laugh and contributes to that odd conundrum that coupons can’t be sold, transferred etc., etc,

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