Police arrest man in thefts of Herald boxes

By Jacques Von Lunen, Herald staff writer February 20, 2011 

The hydraulic liftgate allegedly used to steal newspaper dispensers turned out to lead officers to the suspect.

Kennewick police Friday arrested Tracy Manis, a 47-year-old Kennewick man, for allegedly hauling off 10 Tri-City Herald dispensers during the past four weeks and breaking them open for the change inside. Manis also was charged with stealing coins from a car wash and with possession of methamphetamine.

In late January, the contractor who stocks the newspaper boxes reported that one was missing, said Richard Krasner, the Herald's operations director. The newspaper filed a police report.

Thefts of dispensers continued, with machines going missing from several Kennewick locations such as outside of Burger King, Jiffy Carwash and Red Apple Market.

Some of the dispensers later were found with their coin boxes broken. The Herald incurred overall costs of around $9,500 from damaged or stolen dispensers, Krasner said.

Readers were affected too. In at least one location, the dispenser couldn't be replaced for more than a week, Krasner said.

The Herald filed a report for each theft, and police began stringing together evidence from the separate incidents, said Patrol Officer Tony Valdez.

Some of the businesses from which dispensers had been stolen had video surveillance installed, Valdez said.

Police checked the video footage and noticed a gray Ford pickup at each site. Officers couldn't read the license plate number in the footage, but the truck had a distinguishing feature -- a hydraulic gate the suspect likely used to lift the heavy dispensers, Valdez said.

At midday Friday, investigators released a photo of the truck to patrols.

"We figured if we hadn't found him by Monday morning, we'd put it out on Crime Stoppers," Valdez said.

That didn't turn out to be necessary.

At about 11 p.m. Friday, officers noticed a grey Ford pickup with a hydraulic liftgate near West Fourth Avenue and Vancouver Street. They followed the truck to an address on West Sixth Avenue and arrested Manis without incident, Valdez said.

Manis was taken to the Benton County jail for possession of a controlled substance and theft.

The Herald plans to press for felony charges to the fullest extent possible, Krasner said.

w Jacques Von Lunen: 582-1402; jvonlunen@tricityherald.com

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