Thieves have more brawn than brains

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 28, 2005

It’s not unusual for me to receive a call from a reader saying their paper was missed or reporting some other type of delivery issue, but the call I received on Tuesday morning was different.

&uot;I buy my paper every morning at Fresh Pride and this morning there was no Suffolk News-Herald box there,&uot; the caller said.

Another of our racks had been stolen. Our bright yellow vending boxes are referred to as racks. In fact, I was to find out within about half an hour that thieves had snatched up two of our racks overnight.

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This is getting tiresome. Since the beginning of the year, I’d say close to a dozen News-Herald racks have been snatched. Each time we have to buy new ones to replace them.

New, coin-operated racks like the ones we use cost about $400, so not only is it becoming an annoyance, it’s also becoming expensive – we’re out the cost of the racks and the revenue the rack would generate.

Each time it happens we contact the police but there is little they can do without catching someone in the act. Occasionally they find one dumped alongside a back road, as they did Tuesday when police called to say they found one along Bracey Drive, where the surface changes from paved to dirt. It’s the second one that has been recovered there.

Stealing a news rack can be quite an operation. Each of our racks is chained down, so somebody has to go the trouble of cutting the substantial chain. Further, they are not light and it probably takes two people to hoist them into the back of a pick up – we also weigh them down with cinderblocks or bricks in the bottom to keep them in place.

The thief then has to take the racks to a place where they won’t be seen as they pry open the coin mechanism. Then they have to stealthily take it out and dump it. The entire job is quite an undertaking.

In exchange for these Herculean efforts, the thief likely nets anywhere from two to perhaps 15 dollars in quarters. They would make far more money for much less work if they just went out and got some kind of menial part-time job. In short, we’re probably not dealing with mental giants here.

What’s more, they are not robbing the newspaper, but our carriers, who are independent contractors. We basically sell the newspapers to carriers for a wholesale rate. They are responsible for filling, maintaining and collecting the money from the racks, so all those quarters are the property of our carriers, who can ill afford the losses.

I’ve had about all I can take of this situation. Beginning this week, we’re going to start advertising a $500 reward for information leading to the arrest of people who steal or tamper with our vending boxes.

There is one person authorized to transport our racks and he drives a black Ford Ranger pickup. The thefts generally happen in the early morning hours before dawn. If you’re out then and see a car or truck with a yellow Suffolk News-Herald rack in the back, please jot down the license plate, your vigilance could net you some reward money.

In the meantime, we’re in the process of ordering some new racks and if your News-Herald is not where you are accustomed to buying it, I apologize. We’re working to correct the situation.

As for the people responsible for perpetrating the thefts, you will likely be apprehended and we plan to prosecute to the full extent of the law. I hope the five bucks is worth it.

Andy Prutsok is editor and publisher of the News-Herald. He can be reached at 934-9611 or at