A recent posting on Nextdoor Palisades said: “I was buying a few things at CVS in the village this morning around 8:15 a.m. I noticed that several groups of high school-aged kids entered the store, walked around and left. I was at the check-out and the checker was helping me to check on the price of an item. She said she could not leave the counter because they are understaffed, and she cannot leave the front of the store.
“At the same time, another big group of kids came to the door and a different CVS worker told them that they could not enter the store because school had started, and they needed to be in class. They pretty much ignored this, walked in, strolled around, took drinks, snacks, etc. and walked right out in front of us.
“The checker told me this happens every day, that the same groups of kids come in and blatantly steal, opening up the drinks on their way out the door. She said that there is nothing they can do, they don’t have enough staff and no security, and the teenagers know it. The workers feel overwhelmed, and it seemed to me, a bit scared too. I debated sharing this, but thought our community should know….”
The posting yielded more than 100 comments, but Circling the News is well aware that angry commentary on a social media website does not always help resolve a situation and is often based on incorrect rumors and a lack of fact checking.
CTN sent the initial posting to Palisades High School Principal Pam Magee, who told the store not to allow teens in after 8 a.m. because they are supposed to be in school. The posting was also sent to Palisades Senior Lead Officer Brian Espin and to West Los Angeles Commander Jonathon Tom.
CTN and David Peterson, a local lawyer, visited CVS on November 12 at 3 p.m. to observe the store.
Students come in alone and in groups of three to five, wearing large backpacks that can provide an easy place to put goods. Two girls managed to lift some makeup; two others were caught putting drinks in their backpacks. An employee stopped a boy from putting bags of candy in his backpack.
CTN did not accuse anyone of stealing, but did ask, “You’re going to pay for what you put in your backpack, right?” To which the kids said, “Sure, of course.”
We also spoke to employees, who said teen theft was happening before Covid.
One employee told CTN that she was standing in line at Starbucks with a group of teens and overheard them say that they should go to CVS because no one stops you if you take something.
After an hour of watching teens in the store, CTN sent a second email to the school and to Tom and Espin, suggesting possible anti-theft fixes: 1) no backpacks in the store and 2) have an administrator from PaliHi come to the store for an hour several times a week, until the problem abates.
Unfortunately, it seems that this has become an accepted culture among teens (and not just PaliHi students) to shoplift at CVS.
Principal Magee responded immediately, writing “Pali High shares your concerns and is willing to help identify students. Like CVS, PCHS has limited personnel. Administrators and support staff are spread very thin monitoring campus, dealing with health/safety checks, and supervising events that are in progress late into the evening. We simply do not have available personnel to dedicate to off-campus locations. The school resource officer assigned to PCHS may possibly be able to drive by periodically; however, his presence on campus is critical to the safety and well-being of PCHS students and staff.
“If there is video footage we can review, PCHS will work to identify any violators who attend PCHS. We will support CVS by contacting parents and addressing unacceptable behaviors directly with the students to the extent the law allows.
“Are there recordings available for review? If so, please send them as soon as possible,” Magee wrote.
CTN spoke to store manager Patrick Mobeka today (November 15). He said they are working with the high school.
Captain Tom responded: “I’ve looped in Captain Childs and Lieutenant Gutierrez so they can have Patrol as well as our School or Juvenile Cars swing by the location as available.
“I like the idea of school staff checking out the location on a regular basis. If the kids know they will be caught being truant or otherwise get in trouble they might move on.
“Additionally, we all know that LASPD has been depleted, but I will speak to them about it as well,” Tom said, referring to LAUSD police personnel. “In the end, CVS needs to evaluate bringing in a full-time or part-time security guard. It’s a business decision based on the cost of shrinkage vs the cost of security.”
Mobeka said that his corporate office has to make the decision, but that the unlawful activity at this CVS “is stressful for staff and customers.”
Tom said, “I hope we can all come to the table to discuss a plan of action moving forward.”