Think twice before taking more than one newspaper from the Sunday newspaper rack. The Broward Sheriff’s Office and WPLG channel 10 may have you on video.
With the advent of “extreme couponing” and the television series showing how creative couponers get cartloads of groceries practically free – if not free – there has been an increase in the theft of newspapers or the coupon inserts in them.
Coupons are an excellent way to save money and a way for businesses to attract more customers.
Unfortunately, however, there are criminals who steal coupons depriving those who rely on them in tough economic times. They drop payment for one copy in the machine, and then steal most or all of the coupon inserts from the rack.
Following a number of complaints to Local 10 and the Broward Sheriff’s Office on what Sheriff Al Lamberti calls a “quality of life” issue, reporter Roger Lohse followed up on a tip on a newspaper machine outside the Harvest Café in Davie.
Cameras rolling early Sunday morning, a car pulls up to the machine – in full sight of a marked police car – a man proceeds to take the plastic inserts from several editions of the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Left behind was the remainder of each newspaper for unsuspecting customers to pay for.
As Local 10 followed the man – later identified as Adolfo Rodriguez, 43, of Davie – and his female accomplice, they continued stealing coupon inserts. At one point, they waited for a newspaper delivery man to fill the machine with the female promptly stealing the entire stack of newspapers moments after he left.
Of particular importance this week was that each newspaper contained five coupon inserts from Smart Source, RedPlum, Proctor & Gamble, and Publix Supermarket. Celebrating “National Coupon Month” and a coupon-less paper over the Labor Day weekend, each paper contained hundreds of dollars worth of coupons.
Approached by Loshe late Wednesday afternoon, Rodriguez initially denied any knowledge of coupon theft. When shown pictures from the video he replied, “Yeah, that’s me.”
“Any thought that that is theft, I mean, that’s stealing?” inquired Lohse. “I don’t think about it as theft. I think about it as surviving. I work hard. I’m trying to make ends meet,” Rodriguez said.
The Broward Sheriff’s Office disagreed with Rodriguez and arrested him Wednesday on misdemeanor theft charges.
“This is a quality of life issue,” stated Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti. “While most people think this is a minor crime, many single mothers and unemployed are being victimized. How many people spend a $1.25 on the paper hoping to save on groceries only to find someone has stolen their coupons?
With an arrest record dating to the mid-1990’s for such offenses as disorderly conduct, unlawful use of a badge, burglary with assault or battery, battery on a law enforcement officer, and numerous traffic offenses, Rodriguez was given a notice to appear and released pending a court date.
This was the first time that Adolfo Rodriguez has been charged with stealing coupons.
If you have information on the theft of newspapers or the coupon inserts contained in them, call Broward County Crime Stoppers at (954) 493-TIPS. Remember, you can always remain anonymous and may be eligible for a reward.