Theft is the taking of another's property. Trespassing is the unauthorized intrusion onto another's property. I think a case could be made that by
allowing their ball to enter Jester's property, the kids were trespassing. By not returning the ball, Jester was guilty of petty theft. That's what
the law says.
Reality, however, seldom agrees with legal regulation.
In this case, it would appear to me (who is just as ignorant of the true details of what happened as anyone else on this thread) that both were at
fault. The children are responsible for their ball. It did not jump into Jester's yard by itself. Someone had to either kick it or throw it to make
it go into the yard.
Jester is responsible for returning the ball, or at least for not not
keeping the ball when it lands in her yard as a result of an accident.
Children have no real sense of consequences at a young age, and it's not really a big deal for one of them to accidentally let a ball roll into a
neighbor's yard. But children often also have no sense of responsibility or compassion, and can consider repeatedly 'allowing' their ball to go
into a cranky neighbor's yard worlds of 'fun'. They don't understand that someone else might not consider this fun.
In a perfect world, once the parents realized what was going on, they would have simply told the kids (as many others here have advocated) that if
they wanted to keep their ball, keep it out of Jester's yard. They would have apologized to Jester, explained that 'kids will be kids' but also
that they were going to let this be a lesson for them. The parents would have done the right thing, Jester would have felt that justice was served,
the kids would have learned a valuable lesson about civility and responsibility, and the cops would still be drinking coffee on a speed trap on the
outskirts of town.
But it sounds to me like this is a simple neighborhood dispute that got out of control. Kids accidentally let their ball go into Jester's yard.
Jester gives it back and tells the kids to be more careful. The kids ignore her and continue to let their ball go into her yard. Jester gets upset and
(I am assuming here) asks the parents to control their kids. The parents consider that unreasonable, because the kids aren't bothering anyone else
(and they are too busy). Soon the kids decide making 'ol' lady Jester' yell at them to be a lot of fun. Jester gets madder and madder and finally,
in an act of desperation, decides to keep the ball to 'teach them a lesson'.
Now the parents have time for the kids, because without that ball to amuse them, the kids will be in their
hair. So they call the cops. The
cops come out and really consider this a waste of their time, so they just ask Jester to give the ball back. Jester considers this a bad thing, since
it won't teach the kids anything except how easy it is to torment her, so she tries to tell the cops what happened before this incident. But the cops
don't care; there's a sale at Dunkin Donuts and they're going to be late. So Jester refuses to cooperate. now the cops have to enforce the idea
that they are in charge, so they giver her a ticket. Jester thinks this is silly and refuses to sign it. So to prove they are in charge, the cops now
have to take her into custody.
Now, the cops feel they have done their 'duty' by arresting a little old lady with a big mouth, but they missed the donut sale. Jester feels like
there is no justice. The parents think Jester is a little daft because she didn't just give the ball back. And the kids have learned a valuable
lesson: do whatever you want, but always do it so the law is on your side.
And we wonder why this nation is so screwed up...