At around 4:30 p.m. Tuesday Blanchester Police were called to the Family Dollar store at 640 E. Cherry St. for a report of shoplifting. An officer responded and found several people at the front of the store, including the store manager.
The manager reported he saw a 14-year-old boy stealing cookies from the store. When the boy walked out the front door, the manager yelled for him to stop.
The boy, who was in the company of two teenage friends, did not stop and the manager grabbed him by the arm. As the boy tried to pull away, both individuals fell to the ground. The manager suffered minor abrasions.
The store manager told the officer he did not wish to participate in a prosecution in the case.
The boy was informed that that he and his friends were no longer permitted in the store, and the boy’s parents came to the store, paid for the cookies, assured the officer they would discipline the boy, and took him home.
This particular case offers a learning opportunity to other youngsters in our community:
• First, when someone uses physical force to steal, the crime is no longer theft, but is a felony robbery offense.
In this case, under a technical reading of Ohio law, the boy’s actions were a robbery. Fortunately for him, the store declined to participate in a prosecution. Otherwise, his future could have been clouded for the rest of his life by a robbery conviction;
• Both the 14-year-old boy and one of his companions asserted their firm belief that the store manager was in the wrong for grabbing the thief by the arm because the boy is a minor.
This is a refrain we hear often and which is simply not true. Responsible adults, including store managers and the police, have every right to physically restrain anyone, regardless of age, in order to prevent harm or to apprehend a thief.
Scott Reinbolt is Village of Blanchester Chief of Police.