Shoplifting incidents triple at UBS

Hannah Lentz

Thefts have tripled this year at the University Bookstore on Grand Valley State University’s Allendale Campus. So far, there have been 30 reported incidents of shoplifting since August.

Last year, GVSU reported 10 incidents of shoplifting at the Allendale UBS. This year, there were 22 reported cases during the fall 2013 semester and eight incidents since the beginning of the winter 2014 semester. Stolen items range from apparel to small electronics.

Though the number of incidents has increased drastically since last year, there may not be a significant change in the amount of people stealing, but rather the amount of people getting caught in the act, said UBS manager Jerrod Nickels.

The UBS has been relying more on a surveillance system in the store, which is often used to catch suspects.

“Our primary goal in addressing theft is deterrence rather than apprehension,” Nickels said. “We try to focus on the dual goals of providing good customer service and preventing shoplifting. However, no matter how much prevention we try to ensure, shoplifting incidents do occur.”

The staff is also on the lookout for suspicious behavior, Nickels said. Staff members have undergone training to detect and verify occurrences of shoplifting.

“Each incident is different, so a lot of our training comes with experience and we tend to learn from each new incident,” he said.

The vast majority of subjects involved in these cases are GVSU students, and those identified are being prosecuted for theft.

“Students need to know that the Grand Valley Police Department investigates all of these incidents reported, and we have a very high percentage of identifying subjects involved in these cases,” said Capt. Brandon Dehaan, assistant director of DPS. “This is not a victimless crime, and someone has to pay for this kind of theft.”

The increasing rate of theft is concerning to campus officials, especially since the university has a relatively low rate of crime on campus, DeHaan said.

Depending on the retail value of the stolen items, individuals can receive various charges ranging from a misdemeanor to a felony.

“Often after we apprehend a shoplifter, he or she will attempt to plead that this was the first time and that the decision to steal was a temporary lapse in judgment,” Nickels said. “As shoplifters begin to understand that they have to deal with the court as well as the campus judicial system, they often display regret and ask for leniency.”

Students caught shoplifting usually go through both the university judiciary system and the Ottawa County Prosecutor’s Office.

“In my mind, it just isn’t worth the hassle, the stigma or the expense to shoplift and risk being caught,” Nickels said. “I want to encourage students to use common sense. If you resist the temptation to steal in the first place, you can save yourself a lot of trouble.”

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