By Misty Poe
Times West Virginian
The Times West Virginian is available for home delivery, so that each and every morning, you can read the news that matters to you in the comfort and convenience of your home.
But it’s also available for purchase at local convenience stores and from “racks,” the brightly colored boxes on street corners or in front of businesses.
A customer can plug in three quarters on weekdays or six quarters on Sundays to open the rack and take a copy of the newspaper. But the 75 cents plugged into the machine six days a week and the $1.50 on Sundays entitles the customer to one copy of the newspaper.
Taking any more than one copy without paying is theft — “petit larceny,” which is defined as theft of property or services valued at less than $1,000.
And while stealing newspapers doesn’t seem like a serious crime, if found guilty, West Virginia Code holds that petit larceny is a misdemeanor, punishable by a sentence of incarceration of no more than one year, a fine of no more than $2,500, or both, at the discretion of the court.
“Racks are constantly monitored, and we will prosecute those who are found to be stealing newspapers,” said Times West Virginian publisher Chuck Jessup.
Jessup said with the popularity of extreme couponing shows, Sunday newspapers that contain valuable coupons are targeted. But Jessup cautioned that while getting more and more newspapers at a discounted cost may help the bottom line, it’s not worth the possible consequences of committing theft.
Recently, two women were arrested and charged with petit larceny after early-Sunday morning thefts at racks. The newspaper’s management had very quickly identified a problem with the amount of money contained within the rack versus the number of newspapers left.
Because of the inaccuracies, the racks were being very closely monitored. A carrier and his wife witnessed a car driving from rack to rack, emptying each of newspapers while only paying for one copy. The couple wrote down the license plate number and make and model of the car, which was turned over to the Marion County Sheriff’s Department for investigation and the eventual arrest of the two women.
Jessup stressed that stealing from racks is no different than paying for one newspaper at a store and then taking a handful.
“Our employees and our carriers will continue to be diligent in their efforts to make sure that those who want to read the newspaper have access to it, and those who choose to ignore the laws will face charges,” Jessup said.
Email Misty Poe at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @MistyPoeTWV.