I have always believed that theft and vandalism are two of the lowest activities that one human can intentionally do to another. To steal or destroy something that another person has worked hard to acquire is nothing less than despicable. 

My parents instilled in me a high moral character. That was accomplished partly by example, and at times, by a trip out behind the barn for a more intense training session.  

The one or two times in my life that I attempted to take something that didn’t belong to me, caused me so much guilt that I had to go make it right in order to live with myself. It’s sad that some have managed to ignore or turn off that small voice of conscience. 

Stealing out of desperate need is one thing, it’s still not right, but it is at least understandable. But most theft is simply a senseless, selfish and heartless act. Vandalism, the act of purposely destroying something just for the sake of revenge, profit or entertainment is even worse.

Recently the CourierTraveler has experienced the loss of a number of newspaper vending machines from various locations throughout Cowley county. One was recently found dumped near the Oklahoma border and recovered. The theft of these machines makes no sense at all. 

If money is the thief’s objective, robbing a newspaper vending machine is a very poor choice. The papers in the machine sell for 75 cents, and given the average sales volume, a thief might possibly gain enough on a good day to purchase a meal at a fast food restaurant. The amount of revenue gained from the theft hardly seems worth the effort and the risk. 

It would seem unlikely that someone would steal a machine just to get a newspaper. Our machines are located in well-traveled areas where they can receive more traffic. It would seem a risky venture to load up a machine in view of the entire community just to get the newspapers it contains. 

Perhaps the machines are being sold as scrap metal. The theft of electrical wiring, copper plumbing and even air conditioning units to sell to scrap dealers has become a major problem. Some have even been electrocuted during their attempt to steal copper wiring. The volume of metal in a newspaper rack hardly seems worth the effort. The amount of income that sale would generate would be low, and the risk would be high. Scrap dealers are being required to obtain more information about who they buy material from and report any suspected theft. A newspaper vending rack would likely raise a red flag. 

Theft and vandalism should be a major concern for us all. When a business loses property or has equipment damaged, the replacement or repair becomes an unexpected financial burden. Those additional operating costs have to be absorbed by the company. When those losses become too extreme, they will be passed on to all who use the services that company provides. In some cases, the business may not be able to survive those costs. Theft and vandalism losses, both in the commercial sector and the private sector, will also increase the cost of insurance for all of us. 

The loss of the coins and the newspapers inside the machine is not a major loss. But the machine itself is expensive. With a replacement cost of about $1,000, it takes a long time to pay for a machine at the rate of 75 cents per paper. The CourierTraveler has lost four machines this year. Two machines were lost last year.  

A newspaper depends on its circulation, and having vending units at prime locations is important and necessary. While we wish that all of our readers were subscribers, we know that many depend on those machines for single copy sales. 

Theft and vandalism affects us all, and together we can play a part to stop or at least reduce those losses. In sporting events, it’s often said that the best defense is a strong offense. I believe that to be true. 

We can all pay more attention to the activity we see going on around us and watch out for each other. When we see suspicious activity, getting involved and reporting it to the proper authorities is our strongest weapon. 

While we may occasionally call in a false alarm, we will likely avert many criminal acts and send a strong message to those with malicious intentions. Neighborhood Watch programs, if properly implemented, can also serve as strong deterrents to potential crime activity. 

There are many wonderful communities in Cowley County. Our cities have excellent schools, wonderful parks and so many things to be proud of. Together we can make it even better by making it more difficult for criminals to operate on our streets and in our neighborhoods.

CourierTraveler reporter John Shelman can be contacted at (620) 442-4200 or reporter@ctnewsonline.com.

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