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.

  • Front.nok Hok
    GAMES DAY—Finn Molitierno (right) celebrates a goal during a game of Nok Hockey with his sister, Kyla. The two tried out a variety of games Saturday at Stair District Library’s annual International Games Day event. One of the activities featured a sort of scavenger hunt in which participants had to locate facts presented in the Smithsonian Hometown Teams exhibit. The traveling show left Morenci’s library Tuesday, wrapping up a series of programs that began Oct. 2. Additional photos are on page 7.
  • Station.2
    STRANGE STUFF—Morenci Elementary School students learn that blue isn’t really blue when seen through the right color of lens. Volunteer April Pike presents the lesson to students at one of the many stations brought to the school by the COSI science center. The theme of this year’s visit was the solar system.
  • Front.leaves
    MAPLE leaves show their fall colors in a puddle at Morenci’s Riverside Natural Area. “This was a great year for colors,” said local weather watcher George Isobar. Chilly mornings will give way to seasonable fall temperatures for the next two weeks.
  • Front.band
    MORENCI Marching Band member Brittany Dennis keeps the beat Friday during the half-time show of the Morenci/Pittsford football game. Color guard member Jordan Cordts is at the left. The band performed this season under the direction of Doyle Rodenbeck who served as Morenci’s band director in the 1970s. He’s serving as a substitute during a family leave.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.

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