Stealing Something Free

Book lovers reminded Minnesota Police what the words “free” and “theft” mean. I’m Amy E. Feldman.

The Bloomington, Minnesota Police Department created a literary uproar when they tweeted there had been thefts of books from little libraries, the mailbox-sized repositories where people give or take books. Never underestimate the wrath of a sanctimonious bibliophile, one of whom responded: “How can you steal something free, officers?”

It’s possible. Theft is the unauthorized taking of property with the intent to deprive the rightful owner of it. If a condition is attached—a sign for example, that says “take one”—and you take them all, you have deprived someone of the property that was not yours to take. That’s why a man who took a whole tray of sample cookies from a Colorado grocery store was arrested for shoplifting. That said, the people who donated books wanted others to take them. The department admitted that using the word “theft” was “a human error,” and apologized to the wrongly accused biblioklepts.

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