Calif. universities face rash of newspaper thefts

CALIFORNIA — Newspaper thefts have inhibited studentpublications at three universities in the state in recent weeks,continuing a trend that began last fall when thieves hit at least11 campuses across the country.

In February alone, the California State University at LongBeach, the University of Southern California and the Universityof California at Berkeley have had thousands of copies of theircampus publications vanish. The incident at Berkeley marks thethird theft there this academic year.

About 3,000 copies of the California Patriot were stolenearly Tuesday morning from the conservative magazine’s officeon the University of California at Berkeley campus. The monthly publication said it lost between$1,500 and $2,000 as a result of the theft.

Campus police have launched an investigation into the matter,concentrating on the burglary as well as claims by staff membersthat they were harassed as they tried to distribute the publication.

At issue is an article about a Mexican-American student group,MEChA, which the magazine labeled as a "student funded hategroup" in its February issue. The student group has deniedany involvement in the theft or harassment, according to TheDaily Californian, the campus newspaper.

Last fall The Daily Californian was stolen,making Berkeley one of the worst campuses in the country for newspaperthefts. The student daily has been stolen nine times in the past fiveyears.

At the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, about2,200 copies of the Daily Trojan were stolen throughoutthe day on Feb. 22.

A janitor first noticed about 300 copies in the trash around7 a.m. and returned them to the distribution kiosk. The paperswere back in the trash within an hour. The newspaper staff wasnotified and began looking for missing copies, again finding astack of issues in the trash. Papers were also discovered missingfrom other distribution bins around campus. Some issues were recoveredfrom the trash and returned to the kiosks, but subsequently endedup back in the garbage. The pattern continued all day, five timesin all.

The paper received an e-mail tip over the weekend suggestingthat the theft was related to an article that described a publicdebate between candidates running for student government president,editor Jennifer Medina said. The front-page story detailed thecriticisms candidates leveled at each other in front of studentsduring an outdoor discussion on Feb. 21.

Campus police are investigating the theft, and could ultimatelyprosecute suspects, according to a Daily Trojan article.

"I think it is a fundamental violation of what we areabout as a people and certainly as a university," DeputyChief Bob Taylor was quoted in the article. "There’s somethings that we hold as sacred and one of those things is freedomof the press. What we are about is engaging people in democracy,even if we disagree."

The Daily Trojan estimated it lost $500 in printingand distribution costs.

Thieves swiped nearly the entire 10,000-copy press run of TheLong Beach Union, the student bimonthly at

CALIFORNIA StateUniversity at Long Beach. The thefts took place throughout theweek of Feb. 11, and resulted in only a handful of newspapersbeing distributed, adviser John Patrick Trapper estimated.

The stolen issue included an opinion piece that ridiculed themembers of campus fraternity Sigma Pi, while also describing itssecret handshake. Trapper said the article could have played arole in the theft. The theft could cost the newspaper up to $2,000in losses.

Campus police investigated the incident, but no charges werebrought in the case.

"We went as far as we possibly could with it to the pointthat we went down to the prosecutor’s office and tried to geta filing on it," Deputy Chief of Campus Police Scot Willeysaid. "There’s nothing under the law that allows us to goafter someone who takes free newspapers."

Wiley would not divulge the name of the individual or individualsbeing investigated. The matter is now in the hands of the university’sjudicial affairs office, university spokeswoman Toni Beron said.

Visit our Newspaper Theft Forum, featuring a checklist of things to do before, during and after a theft, along with our past coverage of theft incidents.