The Spotlight on Stealing

Grab and go: The locker rooms are a hot spot for theft at Staples according to Assistant Principal Rich Franzis.

The five-finger discount. The swipe. The steal.
Shoplifting and theft are prevalent issues in America and have started to become part of our nation’s culture. Has Westport contributed to this development?

Stealing at Staples
Gym locker rooms are notorious for hit-and-run thefts, and Staples is no exception. In fact, the locker rooms are where the most cases of theft come from.
“The biggest problems are when the locker rooms are unlocked or unattended,” Assistant Principal Richard Franzis said.
The Athletic Department does its best to monitor the locker rooms in hopes of preventing and dealing with these cases.
However, it is illegal to have cameras in the locker rooms, or any place with reasonable expected privacy.
Instead, there are cameras set up around the entrances of the locker rooms, and physical education teachers lock the doors in between periods.
According to Athletic Director Marty Lisevick, the trend in stealing has decreased dramatically over past years due to the cameras around the locker room areas and the teachers’ ability to monitor the cameras 24/7.
According to Franzis, the school has about 60 cameras throughout the building.
The administration has the ability to monitor any of the cameras any time, as the cameras are directly linked to servers located in the basement of the school.
There are weaknesses to the system, however.
The cameras are not extremely clear, so it is sometimes hard to recognize the faces of students.
Additionally, the lack of cameras in the gym locker rooms pose as an inconvenience to students.
Sometimes students will be locked out of the locker rooms as the bell rings because the doors were still locked. But the preventatives can be beneficial, and therefore, some students are willing to sacrifice their timeliness for the security of their belongings.
“It’s really annoying, but I guess it’s good to take precautions because you never know what could happen—it’s probably one of the precautions that make Staples a safe place,” Jill Rappaport ’13 said.
Overall, the system seems to be effective, as the cameras have “dramatically reduced vandalism and thefts in the building,” Lisevick said.
Franzis agreed, “It’s not a big problem. It’s become less of a problem, but it still is a problem.”
The student handbook lays out all the violations and punishments a student can receive due to stealing.
The punishments range from a day of in-school suspension to a 180-day expulsion.
“It has happened before. A student had a bag with a bunch of electronic devices,” Franzis said of an incident that occurred a few years ago. “When we find students, there are always school consequences. We don’t just say, ‘Oh good, we got you.’”

Westport Community
Shoplifting in Westport has always been somewhat of an issue, according to Cathy Vogel, manager of clothing store Winged Monkey. However, not all stores have teen policies pertaining to stealing.
“We try to trust our customers. I’d rather come from a position of trust rather than mistrust, rather than put in cameras—I feel that it’s an invasion of privacy. But if these kids have the need to steal, then so be it,” Vogel said.
Some stores have policies that may help to reduce such incidents. Border’s bookstore in Fairfield did not implement a system strictly as a shoplifting preventative, but does have a policy that limits the number of teenagers allowed to be together in the store without an adult.
“It’s not so much about stealing, but more to do with a large number of kids that come after school that come in large groups.
“They tend to be unmanageable, just rowdy. We’ve had numerous customer complaints of kids in large groups,” store Manager Eileen Leheny said.
Perhaps such policies can reduce the number of thefts in Westport.
But Vogel seems to think that some of the problem lies in the hands of parents.
“Unfortunately, I think it’s more the parents who allow it to happen without doing anything about it. When I’ve confronted parents, their reactions sometimes are ‘my kid would never do that.’ I think that it’s partly the parents’ responsibility,” Vogel said.
But some students seem to believe that being in a school environment may provoke such behavior.
“I think the school does everything in its right—they give us lockers, but students choose to leave their stuff out. People think it’s safe to steal because it’s in school, and there must not be a strong security system,” Brynn Werner ’13 said.

Going Forward
There seems to be an easy solution for students to protect their belongings, simply by locking-up items. But perhaps the motives behind stealing overpower the school’s efforts to prevent theft.
According to, there may be stages of stealing that start from elementary school years and progress through high school.
Younger kids may steal simply because they don’t understand the fact that items cost money or belong to others.
However, when teens steal, there may be more of an underlying emotional objective.
“It could be psychological. They could want to gain attention by their parents or by their peers. They could be envious and go to the extent of stealing because they’re so jealous of what others have. Maybe it’s to look bad in front of their friends,” Savannah Donahue ’13 said.
Such behavior and stealing amongst teens can reflect stress from school or their home environment.
Whatever the reason, stealing is an issue.
But reminds teens that everyone can learn something from it:
“Part of growing up is becoming aware of how we feel, what we think, and what values are important to us. Learning from past mistakes is a way to do that. It’s never too late to change things we don’t like, or to act in ways that help us to be the person we want to be.”