By Mack Liederman
Be sure to lock it up: That’s the message WHS administration is sending to students after 11 locker-room thefts were reported to police in the month of December.
The number of thefts is unprecedented, said Coordinator of Physical Education Ms. Margaret McFadden: “I can’t remember the last time we’ve had this many things stolen in the course of one month.”
There are currently no suspects or evidence to suggest these events are connected, according to McFadden. The police reports were not made available to Hi’s Eye at press time. School Resource Officer Mr. Jeff Johnson declined to comment, as the thefts are part of an ongoing investigation.
Most reported thefts include stolen money, cell phones or jewelry and occur when items are left outside of the lockers, said McFadden.
She believes that some students purposely wait to be the last out of the locker room during gym periods with the intent to steal unguarded items.
Senior Student Government Association President Katie Brown said that she has been a victim of locker-room thefts. On multiple occasions, Brown left her backpack in the locker room during softball practice only to return to find her wallet cleaned out.
Said McFadden: “These locker rooms aren’t locked up after school. Anybody can go into any locker room and just go shopping.” Brown believes that coaches should start locking the locker room doors at the start of practice.
“I assumed my stuff was safe,” said Brown. “It doesn’t make sense. Administration is telling kids to be more careful with their things in what’s supposed to be a very safe environment, and they’re not suggesting that kids need to stop stealing.”
However, Principal Mr. Peter Renwick said that any student caught stealing will be subject to suspension and reported to the police. The victim can then decide whether or not to press charges. Many thefts go unreported.
Based on a survey of 145 students, 23 percent of WHS students have had an item stolen from them in the locker room, with a margin of error of 7 percent. Most of these are petty thefts; senior Tavis Brunson, who had clothes stolen from his locker, believes students are stealing in order to avoid losing participation points in PE class. “Kids are stealing because they don’t have gym clothes,” he said.
In a statement to Hi’s Eye, Renwick said: “I’m very disturbed that we had that number of thefts, and I’m hoping we can resolve the matter. We are working to correct the issues that are within our control. But ultimately, it’s students stealing from other students and that is really disheartening.”
Senior Sid Douglas said that his backpack, along with his clothes, headphones, journal, gym shorts, shoes, homework, books and basketball, were stolen from the locker room last year, and he did file a police report, unlike Brown and Brunson.
“My life got stolen,” said Douglas. “I really want to think people are stealing because they see other people with things they don’t have. It’s very unfortunate that they feel the need to take from others.” Douglas would like the physical education department to provide each student with a lock or install new lockers with built-in locks.
McFadden said that is just not in the budget, concluding, “I don’t know any other precautionary methods we could take.”
She added that to report a theft, students should speak to their assistant principal in Office A. Officer Johnson will then file a report.