This news disturbed me when I read it. Via the StraitsTimes.com:

Police arrest 55-year-old man for stealing two copies of newspapers
Published on Mar 28, 2014
By Lim Yan Liang

The police have arrested a man suspected of stealing two copies of newspapers from a shopping mall in Commonwealth Avenue West with the help of three members of the public on Friday.

The 55-year-old suspect had entered a store in the mall at about 7.30am and attempted to leave with the newspapers without paying, said a police statement on Friday afternoon. He was confronted by a member of public who witnessed the incident and the suspect was subsequently detained with help from another two members of public. The suspect was later arrested.

Commander of Clementi Police Division, Deputy Assistant Commissioner of Police (DAC) Melvin Yong, commended the three members of public for their public-spiritedness, and said it showed the importance of police-community partnership in fighting crime.

If found guilty of theft in dwelling, the suspect faces up to seven years’ imprisonment and a fine.

Yes, it was wrong to steal. Yes, an act of thief is an act of thief, regardless of the dollar value of the items stolen. However, do we lack compassion as a society?

I am not pointing fingers at the policemen who were simply doing their jobs or the public-spirited members of public who helped to fight crime. They are all good people.

Rather, this is just a reflective view in retrospect.

Newspapers are not essential commodities like food and lodging for survival, but they broaden knowledge. With knowledge, one becomes upwardly mobile. With knowledge, there is empowerment. I see the desire for knowledge from the old man as a resolve to improve himself.

If I am Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), the largest newspaper publisher in Singapore, beyond just reporting the news about this old man getting arrested, I will try to contact him and find out about his situation. If he is experiencing financial difficulty, why not just sponsor him with an annual newspaper subscription? This will generate a lot of goodwill and publicity for SPH, maybe even boasting their circulation sales.

In fact, anyone else with the financial means could have done the same for this old man.

To avoid copycats, make sure it is communicated that this is a one time off event and anyone caught stealing would be dealt with by the law accordingly.

There are means to read free newspapers without having to resort to stealing.

Why not alert the old man that he can get free newspapers like Today and my paper at the train stations? There are also many free online newspaper websites which he can access with free Internet at our national libraries.

If I am not mistaken, there are free newspapers for reading at the community centres as well.

The quest for knowledge is noble.

I think we can be more forgiving as a society.

Or it’s going to be the French Revolution and Les Mis√©rables¬†whereby it will be too late for us to change.