Lendsey Harbin, arrested for sneaking into a movie theater.
Updated: April 3, 2013 6:12AM
Did you hear about the married couple who got arrested for sneaking into a free movie after exiting another movie?
It’s not a joke. It happened on a recent Saturday night at the Portage 16 Imax theater when a Gary couple got caught sneaking in to watch “Warm Bodies.”
Two Portage police officers, who work off-duty security for the theater (in full police uniform), watched Lendsey and Delilha Harbin exit theater No. 15 and walk into theater No. 13.
“Without purchasing tickets,” according to the police report.
One of the officers “believes on other occasions the subjects have attempted to sneak into movies without paying for the tickets,” the report states.
So the officers waited for the couple to leave the second movie after the previews played, but the couple didn’t exit. That’s when the officers entered the movie theater and confronted the couple in the hallway.
When asked for their tickets, the couple allegedly began checking their pockets and eventually said they didn’t have them any longer. They also couldn’t explain why both of them didn’t have tickets.
“But Mrs. Harbin stated, ‘I know we done wrong,’ ” the report states.
When asked why they did so, the couple allegedly replied that it was a first-time offense. They explained they were at a funeral all day and “just were not thinking correctly.”
When pressed on the issue, they admitted they did indeed sneak into movies there “three to four other times” in the past.
“Both subjects were taken into custody without incident and transported to Porter County Jail where they were released into their custody,” the report states. “They are both being charged with Theft D felony and held on bond.”
Arrested for the “theft” of a movie valued collectively at $13.50? A D felony? Booked at the county jail? This is where things get controversial.
Police officers’ call
Have you ever sneaked into a “bonus” movie in a multiplex theater without paying after exiting another paid-for movie? I have, a few times, but only as a teenager. I’ve never done it as an adult, and I’d feel embarrassed if I tried, not to mention humiliated if I got caught.
It’s not only against the rules, it’s also against the law, which this case reminds us.
Typically these, ahem, opportunistic moviegoers who do get caught by ushers are asked to leave the theater and possibly issued a trespass warrant to prevent future incidents from occurring, according to Portage 16 Imax manager Kevin Morgan.
I’ve never heard of anyone being arrested for doing so. Then again, I’ve never heard of anyone admitting to police of doing so a handful of times.
This confession of sorts is what led to the more serious charge of felony theft, according to a police spokesman.
Public opinion on this eye-opening detail, and this rare situation, has been split.
“Jerry, this is our society now. Music after all is ‘free’ so why shouldn’t movies be free too,” one social media reader of mine wrote sarcastically.
Another reader countered, “I can’t believe this is what our hard earned taxes are paying for.”
(It should be noted that the off-duty police officers are paid as security guards by the movie theater, not by taxpayer dollars.)
“Wrong is wrong, and a crime is a crime,” added another reader.
Back and forth it went, defending the arrests and ridiculing the decision.
Contrary to public opinion, it was the cops’ decision to arrest the couple, not the theater’s management.
“We employ police officers as security and, as officers, they have the knowledge and discretion to make the appropriate judgment call on whether an arrest is warranted,” Morgan told me.
The issue of race also has been raised, citing the fact that the Harbins are African-American. Would a white couple from, say, Kouts have been arrested under identical circumstances?
Police say the only color that stood out that night was the flashy outfit worn by Lendsey Harbin, “white vest, white dress pants, and a bright red shirt under the vest.” And also the fact that the Gary couple have been habitual offenders at the theater before.
It’s a murky issue, and one with multiple overtones, which is why I’m addressing it.
One thing is for sure. This incident should serve as a red flag to anyone, especially adults, who are even thinking of sneaking into a movie at any theater.
Share your thoughts on my Facebook page, Twitter account, or blog, at jerrydavich.wordpress.com .
Pssst ... attention women
On the evening of March 11, I will be speaking to the Indiana Federation of Business and Professional Woman’s Clubs at The Patio Restaurant in Merrillville. The group’s mission is to achieve pay equity for women in the workplace, to suppress violence against women and advocate for the Equal Rights Amendment. All noble causes that, sadly, still need advocacy. Although I am just another middle-aged, middle-class white guy, I will do my best to address this issue and other related topics during my presentation. I’m told that networking and social hour start at 5:30 p.m. and dinner is at 6:30 p.m., at a cost of $19. Email your reservations to email@example.com. Hope to see you there.
The group’s mission is to achieve pay equity for women in the workplace, to suppress violence against women and advocate for the Equal Rights Amendment. All noble causes that, sadly, still need advocacy.
Although I am just another middle-aged, middle-class white guy, I will do my best to address this issue and other related topics during my presentation.
I’m told that networking and social hour start at 5:30 p.m. and dinner is at 6:30 p.m., at a cost of $19. Email your reservations to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hope to see you there.