Campus Safety Services has received 77 reports of retail theft at the CVS Pharmacy store on 12th Street near Cecil B. Moore Avenue since January, making it the most frequent place the offense has occurred on Main Campus this year.
“It’s almost an everyday thing,” said Brenda Guzman-Williams, an associate at the store. “People come in and take anything they can.”
Retail theft is when a person takes merchandise from a store or purchases an item at less than full value, according to The Temple News Crime Dashboard. Although it is one of the most frequently occurring offenses campus-wide in the past 30 days, reports of retail theft at the CVS store are down seven percent from this time last year, said Charles Leone, executive director of Campus Safety Services.
“I don’t think it’s because of the pandemic,” Guzman-Williams said about the reasoning behind the thefts. “People are just desperate.”
Most retail theft offenses at the CVS store occur during the evening and do not involve Temple students, Guzman-Williams said. Some young children pretend to scan items at the self-checkout stations, while adults may use backpacks or shopping bags to leave without paying, she said.
“They will fill up shopping bags with stuff, or those mini red baskets, and walk straight out the door,” said Lisa Williams, another store associate.
The store has placed merchandise, like dental and hair products, behind plastic lock cases during the past few years to deter people from taking items without paying, Williams said.
However, when customers want to purchase an item behind the plastic lock cases, they have to press a button that calls store employees to unlock it for them, which feels strange, said Thomas Muzakari, a senior English and Spanish major.
“It was kind of annoying to have to ask them to open up cases for things, but I get what they got to do to keep their stuff safe,” Muzakari said.
Most people who attempt to take merchandise from the CVS store are rarely armed or forceful, and will return the items if confronted by a store employee, Williams said.
“If I see the robbers I just walk up to them and tell them to get it out of their bags,” Guzman-Williams said. “It’s like 90 percent that gives the stuff back and 10 percent runs.”
It is against store policy for CVS workers to follow people out of the store, even if they are suspected of taking merchandise, Williams said. The store does not have its own security guards, and reports retail theft incidents to the Philadelphia Police Department, who then pass the call to Campus Safety Services, Williams said.
“I feel bad for the students,” Guzman-Williams said. “They come in for stuff and it’s all been stolen.”
Nearly half of all retail theft calls to Campus Safety Services result in an arrest or stop, Leone said.
If officers from Campus Safety Services stop the individual, they recover the stolen merchandise and work with CVS management to decide whether to take legal action, Leone said.
“Sometimes the theft is just a $10 item, so they don’t always press charges,” Leone said.
If substance abuse is suspected, Campus Safety Services recommends the perpetrator to the Philadelphia Police Department’s Police-Assisted Diversion program, a partnership with service providers and community residents to provide social assistance to individuals involved in low-level, non-violent drug, prostitution and retail theft offenses and divert them from the criminal justice system, Leone said.
Besides the CVS store, retail theft incidents on Main Campus most frequently occur at the 7-Eleven stores on Broad Street near Diamond and Liacouras Walk near Polett, Leone said.
CVS managers from the store declined to comment on this story.