Smile! Mugshot mag flying off shelves

Getting arrested has never been something to boast about, and thanks to a new weekly publication, it may have gotten even more embarrassing.

Launched June 1, Crime Times offers page after page of mugshots of offenders booked on crimes ranging from disorderly conduct to first-degree murder. At a time when most local publications are free, this tabloid– distributed across Charlottesville and surrounding counties– sells for $1, and yet it's flying off the shelves.

"We asked for 10 the first week," says Mike Brown, owner of Brown's convenience store on Avon Street (formerly Stoney's Grocery). Now, Brown says, he sells 100 copies within days of delivery and calls it "our best-selling publication."

Over on Market Street, it's the same story at the Lucky 7. "We get a big stack of them, and they're gone by the end of the week," says employee Tony Lechmanski.

Sure enough, says Crime Times publisher Wade McMurray, demand for the publication runs high– from an initial print run of 5,000 to 16,000 today. He expects that number to go even higher as he considers moving into the Fredericksburg and Fairfax markets.

"It's been going up by about 1,000 copies a week," says McMurray.

The publication is a family affair. First, 64-year-old McMurray, a truck driver now on disability, helped his brother launch a similar mugshot publication from Lynchburg to Roanoke. When that publication took off, McMurray and his 37-year-old son, Brad, who's worked in marketing and sales, set their sights on Central Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley.

"Our main goal," he says, "is to help inform the public and show the police in a good light by showing what work they've been doing."

Overhead is minimal, and McMurray says that with the exception of Central Virginia Regional Jail in Orange (which has asserted that mugshots are exempt from disclosure), getting the pictures hasn't proven difficult. The father-son team are the sole employees, and they pay only for printing, distribution, and about $3 per mugshot.

While an ad for the bailbonding business 1-800-For-Bail ran for several weeks, ads in recent issues have featured only unsolved crimes or missing persons– and the McMurrays don't charge for those. In July, for instance, a full page was dedicated to the unsolved case of Morgan Harrington, the Virginia Tech student slain after a 2009 Metallica concert in Charlottesville.

"Hard to believe, but they had never heard about Morgan Harrington," says Kenny Jarels, a Harrington family supporter who created that ad.

Mugshot mags exist in other markets, and national websites like The Smoking Gun wouldn't exist without the sad snaps of busted celebrities. So why are Central Virginians hungry enough for images of ordinary people accused mostly of drunk driving and drug possession to open their wallets and pull out a dollar?

"They want to be aware of what their neighbors are into," says McMurray. "You can kind of keep up with what the local people are doing."

~

Special online-only editor's note posted several months after this story ran: Due to the high volume of calls we have received from frustrated readers unable to find contact information for Crime Times, here it is as retrieved from the pages of the magazine: shenandoahscrimetimes@yahoo.com

Read more on: Crime Timesmugshots

14 comments

It is a VERY entertaining publication.... First saw it a few weeks ago and couldn't resist.

Crime pays?

This tabloid is another example of = "guilty until proven innocent".

Any outlet that prints or disseminates the arrest of any person should have to print a follow up once the defendant goes to court and is cleared of any wrongdoing.

tacky

Schadenfreude always sells..

I hope they don't use middle names- the ulimate embarassment

If there was a society mugshot newspaper. People getting married at Farmington, Glenmore and goint to exotic vacations. People getting awards (Waldo's latest etc), giving donations etc. Would people pay a $1 for it and it would fly off the shelves? Would the housewives of (fill in the blank) town have viewers if they were all "nice". We feel better about ourselves seeing the screw ups rather than seeing the great things going on at X estate. The Kluge screw up is more interesting than how nice X is on the Garth road.

People love to see others fall on their face, no doubt about it. It's why people gossip so much, why people love dramatic soap operas full of back stabbing, scheming and plotting, and why true crime is such a hit on TV and in books. People love the negative, they love seeing others screwing up, getting in trouble, being publically embarassed and they love reading about crazy crimes. The more crazy and sordid the crime, the better and more entertaining. People love feeling shocked and appalled at sordid crimes. The jolt to their system probably becomes like entertainment crack or something, they get addicted to it, they have to see more. And if they happen to recognize a face or name....even better. The recognition makes it all even more exciting, because they can run and show everybody they know. It provides endless hours of gossip entertainment.

Granted, some may read it just to be informed. But, I'm thinking it's mostly the stuff mentioned above. ;)

Boycott ACAC and Gold's gym!!!

I bought one just to draw character studies. It otherwise just seems to be more about embarrassing arrestees. I suppose it's assigning a business model to the old town square pillory: https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Public_humiliation

The creators and distributors should be publicly humiliated.

Cool, I've been drawing them too...

"Our main goal," he says, "is to help inform the public and show the police in a good light by showing what work they've been doing."

Hahaha yeah right.

I absolutely agree with GSOE. Retractions should be required within one month after exoneration. It's sad that we live in such a voyeuristic society,
and sadder still, that anyone parts with a hard earned dollar for this "fishwrap".