The Arizona Desert Lamp

Now, if they had chalked the papers, perhaps we’d have a case.

Posted in Uncategorized by Evan Lisull on 9 October 2009

LOLCat on NewspaperThis is incredible spinelessness shown by Juan Alvarez and the UAPD, in response to the Grand Paper Caper:

However, campus police were hesitant to describe the action as criminal activity.

Sgt. Juan Alvarez, a UAPD spokesman, said it was unclear to him whether or not taking the newspapers constituted a crime.

“What complicates this issue is that (the newspapers) were taken from areas where people can walk up and take issues,” he said.

According to a UAPD report, an officer responding to Spohn’s 9-11 call told him that, “While rude and juvenile, the taking of all items offered at no charge was not criminal in nature.”

The case will be inactive, the police report said.

It’s crazy to assert that simply because a product is priced at $0.00, it somehow is “valueless,” that the price of the product is the sole determinant of its value. Ignoring the fact that this puts every single ‘free’ offering ever at risk of grand pilfering, consider the following scenario: Arizona Revised Statutes set the following benchmarks for theft (13-1802):

G. Theft of property or services with a value of twenty-five thousand dollars or more is a class 2 felony. Theft of property or services with a value of four thousand dollars or more but less than twenty-five thousand dollars is a class 3 felony. Theft of property or services with a value of three thousand dollars or more but less than four thousand dollars is a class 4 felony, except that theft of any vehicle engine or transmission is a class 4 felony regardless of value. Theft of property or services with a value of two thousand dollars or more but less than three thousand dollars is a class 5 felony. Theft of property or services with a value of one thousand dollars or more but less than two thousand dollars is a class 6 felony. Theft of any property or services valued at less than one thousand dollars is a class 1 misdemeanor, unless the property is taken from the person of another, is a firearm or is an animal taken for the purpose of animal fighting in violation of section 13-2910.01, in which case the theft is a class 6 felony.

Now suppose our thief – call him “Frank the Tank” –  steals $3100 worth of clothing from the bookstore (dude, it’s Frank – don’t ask). But there’s a catch – it’s Bear Down Friday, and all clothing items are 25 percent off. Thus, the retail price of Frank’s stolen goods is actually $2,325. Does this mean that Frank only gets charged with a class 5 felony, rather than a class 4? And does it mean that his friend “Blue,” who commits the exact same crime the next Tuesday, should be hit with a bigger penalty?

This isn’t to say that the “value” of a rotting ’75 Camaro is it’s sticker price in 1975. It also isn’t to say that Media Chair Woodhams’ valuation should be accepted at face value. But it also doesn’t mean that the goods are valueless – the $0.00 price simply is a means of market penetration. (Potential competitors, seeing the state and fee subsidies that allow for this pricing system, might call it a “predatory monopoly.”) Does this mean that Microsoft has no rights to the source code of Internet Explorer, simply because it’s offered for free?

At any rate, the Wildcat is not backing down, and a noticeably more hirsute editor-in-chief Dalenberg offers this concluding paragraph in his editorial on the matter:

Stealing newspapers won’t stop the Arizona Daily Wildcat, that’s our promise to you. This only makes us want to dig deeper.

But digger deeper into what? Given the Wildcat‘s not-exactly-staid coverage of itself (“Come out, come out, wherever you are!” on page 1, “UA campus faces major censorship…” as subheader of the news story, “Reluctant police no aid in speech squelch” in same news story on page 3, the devotion of five full-time reporters to the story), this could quickly become little more than a wronged seeking, a theft victim who happens to buy her ink by the barrel. Such onanism will only serve too assuage the bruised dignity of the staffers.

Instead, why not go full bore on the UAPD? This non-investigation is just a microcosm of the general trend of not following up on cases of theft in favor of busting drinkers and pot smokers. The latest report on the department revealed that over half of the department’s arrests involved liquor law violations, and almost three-quarters involved victimless crimes.  Yet the Wildcat didn’t so much as mention the report. Rather than focusing their police beats on the amusing, “ha-ha stupid freshman” stories, they could instead focus on cases with possible Fourth Amendment violations or other such indiscretions.

At any rate, I hope someone at the Wildcat has the chutzpah to go to UAPD headquarters and take all of their “free” brochures, every day for the rest of the year. Then we’ll see what constitutes ‘theft’ at the UA.

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One Response

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  1. naclark said, on 12 October 2009 at 10:17 pm

    evan, hirsute, check the mispell, (then you can delete this comment).
    keep up the bloggin’, buddy.


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