Somerville College has threatened to put CCTV cameras in college kitchens after a spate of food thefts from communal fridges. Posters containing the warnings went up yesterday morning following discussions between members of the JCR committee and the Domestic Bursar, Carol Reynolds.
The thefts, which have been occurring throughout Somerville over the last few terms, have been of a number of foodstuffs. Salmon, cheese, bread, chorizo, mushrooms, jam, hot chocolate, garlic, Alpen, Diet Coke, courgettes, and ham are among those foodstuffs that have allegedly stolen.
JCR President Tom Allsup sent an email to JCR members on Wednesday, updating them on recent progress. He said, “The college has recognised the severity of the current problem and is working towards identifying the culprit(s).
“In the mean time we would like to re-emphasise the importance of labelling all your food and having total respect for the property of others. Carol [Reynolds] would also like to stress that if the motivations behind these thefts are financial, the individuals really should just get in contact with her who will provide all the help she can in total confidence.”
The posters, signed by the Housekeeping and Lodge Manager, are entitled “Possible kitchen CCTV monitoring”, and read, “It has been reported that items of food are being removed from this area without the permission of the owner(s). This notice is to inform you that should this continue the College will have no alternative but to place CCTV cameras within this area to monitor this matter. Taking items that do not belong to you without the permission of the owner is theft.”
Students took to Facebook to express their outrage at the food thefts, with some novel solutions proposed by undergraduates to combat the incidents. Florence Avery commented, “I feel a Poirot-esque confrontation with every possible culprit in a room at the same time needs to happen at some point”.
Nick Cooper agreed, saying that the students should “smoke this person out”. Eleanor Keindeg Jaskowska addressed a comment to the “Thief of Penrose”, saying, “If you are in financial difficulty college will help you out. If you are stealing for kicks please seek psychological help.” David Railton called the thefts “beyond tedious”.
Responses to the possibility of CCTV being installed in the kitchens have been mixed. One second year Somerville student said, “Personally, I think installing CCTV is rather excessive, but at the same time the issue of food theft has really got out of hand lately. I’m not sure how effective CCTV will be anyway, since it’s quite hard to tell what food people are taking.”
However, another second year condemned the proposal, arguing, “That’s absolutely ridiculous. Somerville relies on a community, and to have that kind of suspicion is just a bit odd, and to have cameras around college would be weird. It’s a very bad decision. Very bad decision.”
Rose Newman, a third year English student, referred to the financial implications of the thefts for students, commenting, “It’s just really inconsiderate and annoying; most of us don’t have that much money to spare, and if I wanted to feed someone else I’d go and help a Big Issue Seller not a closet kleptomaniac.
“That said, I don’t agree with the decision to install CCTV. We are an Oxford College not a Young Offenders’ Institute, and the rest of us shouldn’t be treated like criminals just because a certain someone(s) can’t keep their thieving little paws to themselves.”
When contacted by Cherwell, Somerville’s Domestic Bursar, Carol Reynolds, declined to comment.