Thrifty Thieves Stealing Coupons

Newspaper delivery man blames TLC reality show for inspiring coupon thefts

By Omar Villafranca
|  Wednesday, Jun 8, 2011  |  Updated 1:14 AM CDT
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A thrifty thief is stealing coupon packets from the Sunday editions of various newspapers.

Omar Villafranca, NBCDFW.com

A thrifty thief is stealing coupon packets from the Sunday editions of various newspapers.

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Call it a coupon caper.

A thrifty thief keeps stealing the coupon packet from the Sunday editions of various newspapers in Denton County.

James Johnson said the crook hits his newspaper boxes about 25 times a week.

The trouble started six months ago, but the last six weeks have been the worst for Johnson. The thefts got so bad, he hired a helper to watch over his boxes on Sunday morning.

"He'll sit in another parking lot with binoculars, watching to see what's going on because we keep getting hit constantly, " he said.

The extra eyes are helping -- he has turned over 11 thieves to police officers.

"Three weeks ago, I caught a girl [who] said she just moved from L.A., and it was no big deal in L.A.," Johnson said shaking his head. "[I] had a guy, he'd steal everything in town -- one guy alone. He was driving a Cadillac Escalade."

Johnson said the coupon packets can offer savings from $180 to more than $400, making it tempting for thieves interesting in pinching pennies. And some thieves sell the coupons online to other coupon-cutters, he said.

But Johnson also has another theory on why thieves target coupon packets -- inspiration from TLC's "Extreme Couponing," a reality show that chronicles the lengths extreme coupon-cutters will go to get deals.

"Well, here they (the show) started up again, so for the last six weeks, it's just been a constant," he said. "I can go up and down, and every rack is the same way -- open it up [and] no plastics."

Johnson said if a coupon packet is not in a newspaper, he can't sell it. That costs him money.

Denton police spokesman Officer Ryan Grelle said some people try to skirt the rules of buying a newspaper when no one is watching.

"When you put your cash in, whether it be 50 cents, 25 cents or a $1.50 for the Sunday, the rule
is one paper," Grelle said.

The crime may seem petty, but it carries a fine that can cost you money or jail time.

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