Police at Tenn. university treating newspaper theft as ‘malicious mischief’

TENNESSEE — Stacks of student newspapers foundin a trash bin last week at the University of Memphis will not be investigatedas a theft but as malicious mischief, campus police said.Derek Myers,the university’s public safety deputy director, said that because thepapers were recovered and put back into a distribution rack before anyonenotified police, they cannot be considered stolen.”We can’tfit what happened to the way the laws are written,” Myers said. ”[Ifthe perpetrator is found], it will become some sort of theft charge, but this issomething that’s so strange as far as trying to fit the crime to an actualstatute.”On Jan. 28, staff members of The Daily Helmsmanwere alerted that copies of the paper were hard to find in Patterson Hall.Nearly 800 copies of the Jan. 29 edition were found in a Dumpster outside thebuilding shortly after they were delivered.Andre Cherry, staff reporter,said he believes papers were stolen Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of that week,but only papers from Thursday’s edition were found, still bundled, in thetrash.”That particular building doesn’t have securitycameras where it can observe the newspaper stands,” Cherrysaid.Myers said the school is adding Web cameras to problem areas oncampus, such as vending machines, but if newspaper thefts continue, the campuspolice department will consider additional cameras near newspaperracks.Myers said newspaper thefts usually occur because a person ororganization is upset with something written in the paper. But he said he wasunable to find anything very controversial in Thursday’sedition.Newspaper staff members said they were told that the custodialstaff might be responsible for the theft because the staff is aggravated withstudents who tend to throw the papers on the floor after readingthem.Calvin Strong, director of landscape and custodial services for theschool, said he has spoken with the supervisor for PattersonHall.”She spoke with the employees in that building,” Strongsaid. ”They assured me that they had no part in it.”Strongsaid the custodial staff is not aware of who might have taken the papers, butwill be keeping a closer eye on newspapers in the buildings.”There’s no reason to suspect them,” Strong said.”They say they didn’t do it.”Bob Willis, journalismfaculty member and advertising manager for the paper, said the newspaper wouldconsider pressing charges against the person responsible for the theft. Willissaid he can remember three newspaper thefts in his eight years at theschool.Myers said he believes this was an isolatedincident.”We don’t have a lot to go on unless someone wantsto come forward and say they saw something or confess,” Myers said.”The officers know about it and are keeping an eye on the newspapers inthe early morning, just to make sure they are there.”

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