At the University Store, located at 36 University Place, security cameras have been placed at the self-checkout stations to discourage shoplifting and to monitor transactions.
Posters are now displayed at each self-checkout station, calling attention to the security cameras above. Below, video monitors show the overhead perspective of the station’s respective camera.
According to University Store President Jim Sykes, both U-Stores at University Place and on Nassau Street have been equipped with cameras for the past 15 years; the cameras are updated and replaced every five years.
However, video monitors and signs have recently been added to discourage student shoppers from shoplifting, a phenomenon that has increased in the last six months — particularly at self-checkout stations.
“Yes, we have shoplifting; we have cameras to try to deter it, and also to allow us to determine if someone was shoplifting,” Sykes said in an interview with The Daily Princetonian.
Sykes commented on how petty theft at the U-Store can take a serious toll on the store.
“Generally, for a company of our size, it’s probably [a loss] of around $40,000 or $50,000 a year,” Sykes said. “So, it’s not an insignificant number.”
According to Sykes, self-checkout, in a way, has resulted in a false sense of security for students, who believe they are not being watched when they purchase some of their items but leave with one or two unpaid.
“They think that by going through that process … we wouldn’t suspect them,” Sykes said. “But again, that’s just not true.”
The majority of theft at the U-Store occurs with food and beauty products, and sometimes the same items are stolen repeatedly, like one shopper who would consistently steal mango slices. Additionally, sometimes theft occurs when students eat food products in the store without purchasing them.
“There’s even instances where people come into the store and warm something up in the microwave, or if it’s cold, actually open [it] and eat it there, and then they’ll just walk out without paying for it,” Sykes said. “So we do actually track that.”
The current surveillance systems have longer archival periods than their predecessors, enabling U-Store staff to review the footage should they suspect an instance of shoplifting. In real time, staff can utilize a monitor that shows footage from multiple cameras to determine if there is suspicious behavior. After a recording is made, it is turned over to the police or the Department of Public Safety.
“That’s not something we’re involved in,” Sykes said.
Department of Public Safety Assistant Vice President Kenneth Strother Jr. did not reply to a request for comment. University Spokesperson Michael Hotchkiss directed inquiries to University Store leadership as the store operates independently from the University.
Louisa Gheorghita is a News contributor for the ‘Prince.’
Please send any corrections to corrections[at]dailyprincetonian.com.