Editorial: Help Deter Criminal Vandalism Vs. N-P

A few years back, Falls Church’s Chief of Police Mary Gavin issued a public statement, she called it a “Police Warning,” stating, “The City of Falls Church Police need your help. Unidentified perpetrators are reportedly vandalizing newspaper distribution boxes in front of City businesses, including boxes belonging to the Falls Church News-Press. Taking a free paper isn’t a crime. Taking the stack, littering the streets, and damaging the boxes is a crime.”

She urged the public, “If you see something, say something by calling the Falls Church Police Department at 703-248-5050 or, in the case of an emergency, call 911.”

Her warning and call for the public’s help is still valid today. As the News-Press has begun installing new boxes at locations around town, there has been a resurgence of criminal vandalism against them. The public needs to know this is a criminal activity and to treat it as such.

The News-Press, on behalf of its readers and advertisers, will advocate aggressively for the full prosecution of anyone arrested for this crime. As this is a problem we’ve experienced over the years, we are hopeful that the public’s greater utilization of individual video technologies will help identify perpetrators and deter this criminal behavior.

The victims of these crimes are everyone in our community. Yes, You! Even if one finds there are items in a newspaper that one does not like, it is not an excuse for denying an entire community access to that publication. This is censorship on an individual basis, and should no more be tolerated than if it were the action of a hostile government or any domestic terrorist group.

Needless to say, a lot of effort goes into our production of a credible and informative newspaper every single week, especially in the context of a hostile environment for newspapers, overall, which are vanishing at an alarming rate nationally due to financial and related reasons.

The history of the United States as a democracy is inextricably linked to the rise of a free press, from Benjamin Franklin onward. It’s a proud and great history. Those who seek to suppress a free press, on grounds they don’t like some of its contents, for example, are sewing the seeds for the rise of authoritarian and totalitarian movements that would suppress everyone’s freedoms.

It is the benefit to the entire community that a free press represents, even for those who don’t pay attention to it, that is at stake here. In a small community like Falls Church, the opportunity for many small businesses to peddle their wares by having access to affordable, targeted advertising, can be absolutely key to their success. Criminal vandalism cuts them off from that opportunity by destroying, among other things, the ads they’d already paid for as well as important news about their businesses.

So we all have a stake in making sure a community can enjoy the benefits of its newspapers, and with Chief Gavin we ask its help to deter these crimes.