Signs warning that shoplifters will be prosecuted were recently added to many Campus Dining locations after Cal Poly Corporation updated their loss prevention policy at the start of Winter 2020.
The updates were made to address an increase in theft over the past year, according to Cal Poly Corporation Communications Specialist Aaron Lambert.
However, according to University Police shoplifting records, there have only been four reported incidents of stolen items from Jan. 2018 to present — three of whom were not students.
The Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities (OSSR) has only received three cases of students shoplifting this academic year, according to University Spokesperson Matt Lazier. This is significantly down from the 2016-17 academic year when the OSSR handled 92 shoplifting cases. Cases are not always reported to both OSSR and UPD.
“The signs are displayed as a deterrent and so students know that there are consequences for their actions,” Lambert wrote in an email to Mustang News.
Prior to this quarter, the offender would pay a monetary compensation to Campus Dining to make up for their actions. The previous policy was removed due to lack of clarity, according to Lambert.
“When word is out that we go after even the smallest theft with a very real consequence, those who may have stolen before, or are considering stealing, might now be deterred,” the old policy states.
Under the new policy, any customer observed shoplifting will be confronted by Campus Dining staff and may be reported to the University Police Department and the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities.
“Charges will be filed and the disposition of those charges will be handled by the District Attorney,” the new policy reads.
The Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities will then evaluate the severity of the instance, according to the new policy. Fees may be added to the student’s account to compensate Campus Dining for the stolen property.
Reported Number of Shoplifting Cases Handled by OSRR
However, student employees at Campus Dining locations are not necessarily taught how to handle shoplifting.
“When I was quote, unquote trained to work at [805 Kitchen and The Avenue], I was never told ‘Hey, report that,’ so I never really did,” environmental management and protection sophomore Elijah Lindgren said. “I mean, in retrospect maybe I should have, but we were not given any explicit instructions to do so.”
At other dining locations on campus, policies on shoplifting were enforced more strictly.
“At Campus Market, the managers were like ‘if you see anybody stealing anything, run after them, yell at them, say something to them.’ I had countless managers on shift go up to people and go off on them for taking stuff,” animal science junior Sophia Rivera said.
The University Police performs the criminal investigations on reports they receive. The results of their investigations are forwarded to the county District Attorney’s Office, which would decide whether to prosecute, according to Lazier. This process is the same for all crimes on campus, not just shoplifting.
“It is not the university’s role to prosecute any criminal cases,” Lazier wrote.
Someone would only have to steal one item to be prosecuted, according to Lambert.
However, prosecution charges for potential shoplifting depends on the value of the items taken.
“I feel like it’s a little much to prosecute for a Chick-Fil-A sandwich,” parks and tourism administration junior Holly Benson said. “Campus Dining is expensive.”
The California Penal Code 459.5(a) states that shoplifting, a misdemeanor charge, is anything where the value of the property taken or intended to be taken does not exceed $950. If the value is more than $950, it can be prosecuted as a felony offense.
Stephanie Zappelli contributed to this story.