In the Press-Republican, we don't report misdemeanors, unless there is something about them that is especially compelling, though sometimes we wish we did. (If a public figure is accused of committing a crime, for example, or it takes place in a very public way witnessed by many people, we may decide to make an exception to one of the few "policies" to which we cling.)

We long ago discovered we didn't have enough reporters to find out about all the misdemeanors that occur in our vast, three-county region, and we wouldn't have enough space to print them all even if we did. We could find out with relative ease about city misdemeanors, but if one were committed outside city limits, maybe not. That seems unfair.

We are able to find out about nearly all -- if not all -- felonies, which are more-serious crimes, so we publish them in our Police Log and elsewhere in the paper.

Sometimes, though, we wish we could violate our own policy and write up a misdemeanor. We could, of course, but we'd rather not compromise on the fairness issue, or we might be tempted more often than would be practical.

The Saranac Lake Police Department faxed us a routine notice of a misdemeanor recently, and, while we didn't include it in our daily report, it caught our eye.

The manager of Stewart's on Bloomingdale Avenue in the village had called the police about a 17-year-old employee stealing an 18-pack of Budweiser beer and hiding it in the parking lot so a 17-year-old friend could pick it up. Both were arrested, charged and given appearance tickets. The employee was charged with fifth-degree criminal possession of stolen property and possession of an alcoholic beverage under the age of 21. The partner was charged with 6th-degree conspiracy.

Neither of these crimes is a sign of a lifetime of lawlessness, obviously. Some people would say they're nothing more than juvenile mischief.

What we find troubling is that they're a sign of potential trouble that we hope will be eradicated with this preliminary brush with the police. But a teenager stealing from his or her boss is not an impersonal theft but one committed against someone who should be known and respected. That's especially bothersome.

It sometimes crosses our minds that if we had published names -- if we could get them, which, if a judge accords the accused "youthful offender" status, we cannot -- maybe the embarrassment and locally imposed pressure would ensure no such "mischievous" inclination would ever surface again.

This time, the kids will answer the accusations, which are not all that serious. We hope the experience has the effect of making sure we never carry their names for something more enduring.

Trending Video

Recommended for you