Hawaii residents Nicole and Marcin Leszczynski recently went to jail and lost custody of their daughter for about 18 hours, all because they forgot to pay for a $5 sandwich at the Safeway. If their story were a Lifetime movie it would be titled Police State in Paradise.
"We walked a long way to the grocery store and I was feeling faint, dizzy, like I needed to eat something, so we decided to pick up some sandwiches and eat them while we were shopping," Nicole, who's 30 weeks preggers, told KHON news. She and Marcin bought $50 worth of groceries but forgot to pay for one item: their cheapo sandwiches. Store security stopped them at the door, and the couple offered to pay on the spot. Too late: Security called the real cops, who took the Lesczynskis to the Honolulu Police Department HQ (a "destination" police station) and booked them on theft charges.
While the Leszczynskis were being processed through Honolulu's criminal justice system, their three-year-old daughter was placed with Child Protective Services. After a long, stressful 18 hours, which Mama L spent upset, pregnant, worried about her daughter and probably still hungry, the family was reunited. Now Safeway's apologizing for the incident.
At a time when states are reducing the penalties for property theft crimes in order to reduce prison and jail populations, it might also be wise for private businesses to revisit their policies on dealing with so-called shoplifters so they don't have innocent people arrested. Why would the Lesczynskis have paid for all their other groceries, but not their sandwiches? Perhaps they sought a $5 discount, but it doesn't seem likely.