2011.03.23 Toledo publishers find unique way of making crime pay

Written by David Green.

By RICH FOLEY

I’m always on the lookout for interesting reading material, so when a friend returned from a recent trip to Toledo with a copy of a publication called “Behind Bars,” my day was made. With all of the odd little tabloids already on the market, why did it take so long for someone to come up with this idea?

Simply put, Behind Bars, published each Tuesday,  runs mug shots, with names and charges, of recent suspects arrested in Lucas County. The paper clearly states that all information used is in the public domain, consists of arrest and booking information obtained from public records and that all suspects are presumed innocent until proven guilty. That said, I doubt the disclaimer makes those featured in the publication feel any better. 

Just in case, no names of those responsible for issuing the paper are printed. Neither is there an office address. That probably not only cuts down on complaints, but also reduces the chances of a person featured in the paper making a return appearance for disorderly conduct after paying a visit to the publisher.

The copy I have displays a total of 316 photos, which is a bit scary when you realize that this is only a week’s worth of arrests and that relatively minor offenses are not included. The more I look through the photos, the less appealing a trip to Toledo seems to me.

I laughed at the publication’s slogan, “Toledo’s Most Popular Weekly Crime Newspaper.” Seriously, how could it not be? It’s not like there’s more than one, right? Actually, that’s not the case. In looking for the website for Behind Bars, I discovered that Lucas County is home to at least two more weekly mug shot publications. 

One, with the similar name of “Buckeyes Behind Bars,” claims to run the mug shot of every person who has been booked into the Lucas County jail. It sells for $2. Another, called “Locked Up News,” sells for $1. The fact that Behind Bars is free probably is the basis for their “most popular” claim. But three mug shot publications in the same city? At least some printer is making a few bucks.

The front page of Behind Bars displayed six “Mugs of the Week,” chosen apparently for their comedic value. Categories included Best Mullet, Best Dressed (a man wearing a tie in his mug shot who had been arrested for theft), and Nicest Smile. Do you suppose inmates who make the front page get special privileges in jail? After all, they are kind of a celebrity.

Along with the mug shots, the paper also had a few features. One was a list of odd blue laws from around the country, such as the one in Florida banning sexual relations with a porcupine, or the Idaho ordinance outlawing fishing from a giraffe’s back.

Even more interesting was the page of “Dumb Criminal Stories.” My favorite was the Virginia man who applied for welfare benefits after driving to the department of social services office in a Hummer H2. Someone thought that odd enough to contact the sheriff’s office, and sure enough, the Hummer was stolen. At least the driver won’t have to worry where he’ll live for a while, even if his welfare application isn’t approved. 

Then, there was the Georgia man who planned to rob a convenience store, but, wanting to be alone with the clerk, decided to fill out a job application until the customers cleared out. Police investigating the robbery discovered the suspect put down his real name and a relative’s phone number on the application. Not only was he arrested for the crime, he didn’t get the job, either.

Helping to pay for the paper are advertisements from several criminal attorneys and another from an insurance company. And then, there’s what I’d guess is their biggest moneymaker: framed copies of mug shots.

Like other papers that sell reprints of photos appearing in their pages, Behind Bars offers 5x7 framed copies of any mug shot in the publication, $20 per mug and free shipping. I’m sure that young lady featured for Best Smile would like additional copies. Just think how quickly a pictured person could finish their Christmas shopping, many months in advance.  

I’m really happy my friend brought me the paper, but after seeing the amount of criminal activity in the Glass City in just a week, I’m not in any hurry to re-visit Toledo anytime soon. Unless, of course, I can go with a SWAT team escort.

  • Girls.on.ride
    NADIYA YORK and Aniston Valentine take a spin on the Casino, one of the rides offered at Wakefield Park during Morenci’s Town and Country Festival. This year’s festival remained dry but with plenty of heat during the three-day run. Additional photographs are inside this week’s Observer.
  • Front.softball
    Angela Davis (2) and teammate Allison VanBrandt break into a jig after Morenci's softball team won its third consecutive regional title.
  • Front.art.park
    ART PARK—A design created by Poggemeyer Design Group shows a “pocket art park” in the green space south of the State Line Observer building. The proposal includes a 12-foot sculpture based on a design created by Morenci sixth grade student Klara Wesley through a school and library collaboration. A wooden band shell is located at the back of the lot. The Observer wall would be covered with a synthetic stucco material. City council members are considering ways to fund the estimated $125,000 project and perhaps tackling construction one step at a time.
  • Front.train
    WRECKAGE—Morenci Fire Department member Taylor Schisler walks past the smoking wreckage of a semi-truck tractor on the north side of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad tracks on Ranger Highway. The truck trailer was on the south side of the tracks
  • Funcolor
    LEONIE LEAHY was one of three local hair stylists who volunteered time Friday at the Morenci PTO Fun Night. Her customer, Aubrey Sandusky, looks up at her mother while her hair takes on a perfect match to her outfit. Leahy said she had a great time at the event—nothing but happy clients.
  • KayseInField
    IN THE FIELD—2004 Morenci graduate Kayse Onweller works in a test plot of wheat in Texas. She’s part of Bayer CropScience’s North American wheat breeding program based in Nebraska, where she completed post-graduate work in plant breeding and genetics.
  • Front.winner
    REFEREE Camden Miller raises the hand of Morenci Jr. Dawgs wrestler Ryder Ryan as his opponent leaves the mat in disappointment. Morenci’s youth wrestling program served as host for a tournament Saturday morning to raise money for the club. Additional photos are on the back page.

Weekly newspaper serving SE Michigan and NW Ohio - State Line Observer ©2006-2016