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Police investigating theft of 2,300 newspapers at Calif. university
Editor estimates paper lost nearly $1,200 because of theft
January 26, 2004

CALIFORNIA -- Police at the University of California at Santa Barbara are investigating the theft of more than 2,300 copies of the Daily Nexus, the campus newspaper.Newspapers were taken from racks Jan. 14 and thrown into garbage cans and recycling bins, said Brendan Buhler, the newspaper’s editor. Members of the newspaper staff found 2,393 papers in 10 trashcans. Buhler reported the theft to the campus police. He said each newspaper costs about 50 cents to produce, so the Daily Nexus lost nearly $1,200 from the theft.“When we first tried reporting it, the police told us that free papers can’t be stolen,” Buhler said. When the police were told that there was a charge for additional copies of the paper, they began to investigate the matter as a theft. Signs posted on distribution racks notify readers that the first copy of the paper is free and each additional copy is $1.Campus police officer Mark Signa said that because the newspaper put a value on the paper, stealing it is a crime. Without the sign, the papers would be considered free and taking more than one would not constitute theft, he said. Signa said there are no suspects, but police are interviewing witnesses and going over tapes from video surveillance on campus.“There are some people of interest that we’re looking at,” Signa said.Signa said the thief could be charged with a separate count of petty theft, a misdemeanor crime, for each location the papers were stolen from. If found, the perpetrator could face a fine and up to one year in county jail. Signa said the police department is handling the case, but it will keep the dean of students informed. Both the police and the university could take action if the perpetrator is a student.“It is obviously a very sensitive issue,” Signa said. “[Nexus staff members] are concerned over what happened and are taking it personally.”Buhler said he didn’t know why the newspapers were stolen.“If I had to guess, it was probably somebody who wanted to keep their name out of the paper,” he said.Daily Nexus staff members discovered the theft after a student government meeting on Jan. 14. At the meeting, students said they were unable to find copies of that day’s paper. One student government member saw an unidentified man throwing away a large stack of newspapers.Buhler said that at first he thought the newspaper was having delivery problems because “not every rack was hit.” When he saw the pile of newspapers in the trash can, he called a photographer, staff members and the police.The Daily Nexus has encountered newspaper theft in the past. In 1997, thousands of copies of the newspaper were stolen by the then-student government president who was brought before a campus disciplinary committee.

For More Information: Visit the SPLC newspaper theft forum

© 2004 Student Press Law Center

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