Why security at the Village unnecessary
Those students living on the North Side might have noticed the addition of a badge-wielding security guard at the Village on weekend nights. It seems to me there might be two motivations behind the installation of this security. One is to ensure general order and prevent any unrest; the second is the prevention of theft. I contend that while these are reasonable goals, they are simply not achieved by having a guard. Thus, there is no need for the expense and intrusion of a professional security guard.
Let me first address the theft issue. Theft has sadly proven to be a problem for dining services, though this issue, perhaps, speaks to bigger ones in the Washington University community that I do not intend to address. I will simply consider theft from the point of view of an economist. Is the guard preventing enough theft to justify the expense of his salary? A conservative estimate might be that a security guard at the Village is paid $10/hour. That means that each hour, the security guard must prevent $10 worth of theft in order to financially justify his presence. Keep in mind that these must be thefts that would also go unnoticed by other employees, including cashiers and servers. While my evidence is anecdotal, I surveyed my own experience and that of several friends who frequent the Village on weekend nights, and not one of them have ever seen a guard catch someone stealing food. Furthermore, all crimes, even petty ones, are reported on the WUPD website. A quick look at the January crime list shows no evidence of any theft of food from the Village. Based on this evidence, I think it is safe to conclude that the security program is not stopping enough theft to warrant its existence. Another argument might be that the guard provides a theft deterrent. If that is the case, why is he only there on weekends? I don’t think the incentive to steal is any higher on weekend nights then on others.
Perhaps the reason there is a guard on weekends is for the maintenance of order. Once again, I contend that this does not make sense. While I acknowledge that the weekend crowd might often be a little inebriated, all students know that if there were a serious emergency or disturbance, police are only a fistful of fives away. I also have full confidence that the food services employees are fully capable of handling any minor disturbances. I honestly cannot think of any kind of issue that would be too small for the attention of WUPD and too tough for the dedicated and genial cashiers and chefs at the Village to handle. While it may be a different situation one block to the north, I doubt any students feel (or are) unsafe in or around The Village. If this is the case, then I seriously question the rationale behind the security program.
Now I must answer the questions: Why does it matter? Unless you are an aspiring thief, then why would the presence of a security guard bother you? The answer to these questions is twofold. The first is that food at our school is expensive enough as it is. Paying a security guard adds costs that are inevitably passed on to the students. The second part of my answer concerns the intrusion of security guards into our living space. I am sure I am not the only one whose heart skips a beat when a police car pulls into their rear-view mirror even when they are doing nothing wrong. The same principle applies here. I shouldn’t have to feel nervous when I am waiting in line for some late-night study (or party) food. Furthermore, on numerous occasions, the guard at the Village has rudely asked me or other students to refrain from hanging out with friends who are in line. Once he told me that I was not allowed to munch on a few tots while my friend waited for his meal. He said I would have to close my box or leave. Not a single Village employee has shown any semblance of caring about things of this nature when the guard is not around. It seems that the guard is a power trip, plain and simple. Sadly, this takes away from the usually pleasant experience that is a late-night Village run. Because the guard is an expense and nuisance who could be done without, I ask the school to consider removing the security guard.