Gateway thefts leave students, employees feeling uneasy
By Laurisa Martin
As the population of Northern Arizona University (NAU) continues to grow, so do some unfortunate trends, including an increase of thefts at the on-campus market, Gateway Campus Market.
Gateway stays open the latest on campus, and many students are drawn to the late night eatery for a late-night snack. The amount of students, however, has turned into an issue. As more students enter the store, there has been a noticeable increase in thefts.
“This year is a lot better than previous years and I think it’s because [students] are starting to see the cops come in here charging kids more often,” supervisor Chanel Craig said. ”No matter what, [the weekends] are the worst because it’s so crowded.”
Craig said the staff has tried rearranging the store in order to keep an eye on everyone, but once it’s crowded, it’s difficult to catch each person who attempts to steal.
Freshman Bryce Kaowili admits he’s seen others shoplift before during some of his frequent weekly visits to the store.
“Everyone makes it look so easy,” Kaowili said. “They just walk in there, take it and leave. They feel like they can get away with it because no one’s chasing them or able to see them.”
Craig also stated the reason many choose to steal is not because they don’t have the money, but because they don’t want to stand in line for the wait. She noted many students coming into the store are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, thus becoming more impatient while waiting to be served.
“The line is super long, so the people on register are paying attention to people in front of the line and the people making food are focused on that so they really don’t have time to look at the merchandise being stolen,” Kaowili added.
Employees stated this is due to the small size of the store and its layout. Some NAU Police Department (NAUPD) officers have been called from their original duties to watch over the store, monitoring how many students are allowed in.
Despite the preventative measures taken in order to solve this growing issue, there hasn’t been a solution to end all thefts.
Craig also stated because NAUPD is usually busy with other duties, it would be helpful if at least one security guard was hired to monitor the store during its busiest hours: 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. She suggests allowing about 40 people in the store at once through the crowded times, while having someone to check around the store for stock during slow hours, may help prevent the issue.
Joe Tritschler, NAUPD community relations officer, said the department has offered safety points to the convenience store in order to prevent thefts, but if it turns into a bigger problem, they will work with store employees to go to bigger extremes to avoid shoplifting.
When a student is caught attempting to shoplift from the store, employees have previously avoided prosecuting the student immediately. Depending on the suspect’s attitudes toward the employee, the staff would decide whether NAUPD should become involved or if the conflict could be resolved without police intervention. The student would be asked to leave and, if entered the store again, would be considered to be trespassing.
However, as theft increases, Craig is now officially required to report the incident, file a police report and prosecute them.
“That’s really rough because if they get caught stealing, despite what it is, they could lose a lot with their school and I don’t think kids realize that,” Craig said.
Craig stated if someone is caught shoplifting from the college campus, according to a written code for NAU, he or she may be immediately expelled.
Although no students have been caught shoplifting so far this year, if one is found to be guilty of the crime, officers will “arrest them on the spot,” according to Tritschler.
Gateway policy states if financial standing is an issue for the student, instead of shoplifting, they can simply give their information to a worker to keep on file and can pay the money back later if necessary.
“If you don’t have the money, come talk to whichever supervisor is there, and they can help you,” Craig said. “They can write down your name and ID number just in case you didn’t have your ID that day for some reason. And then if you don’t show up to pay for it eventually, we have your information to run the credit for it.”
She knows students are hungry, but states there are ways of avoiding putting yourself in an unneeded situation.
“Kids just need to be smart,” Craig said. “Don’t throw your schooling away for Top Ramen.”