hopkinton-independent-logo2x
Hopkinton, MA
loader-image
Hopkinton, US
6:06 am, Saturday, May 18, 2024
temperature icon 27°F
Humidity 51 %
Wind Gust: 10 mph

SIGN UP TODAY!
BREAKING NEWS & DAILY NEWSLETTER





Allegations of teen shoplifting prompt discussions on outlets for students in town

by | Jun 21, 2023 | Business, Featured: News, News, Police & Fire

Bill's Pizzeria

A police cruiser drives along Main Street in front of Bill’s Pizzeria on Wednesday, the final day of the school year. PHOTO/JERRY SPAR

Concerns recently arose about teen activity in the downtown business district and what options are available for young adults to socialize after school and during the summer break.

As first reported in HopNews on June 12, Bill Besozzi, the manager at CVS at 61 Main Street, said that large groups of teens had been loitering in the store after school, being disruptive and shoplifting.

Hopkinton Police Chief Joseph Bennett told the Independent that police responded to a call from CVS after students were released from school following an early release day earlier this month. (Wednesday was the final day of the school year.)

“CVS called us because there was a large group of kids hanging out in the store,” Bennett said. “CVS was regulating how many came in and went out and asked them to leave their backpacks outside.”

Said Bennett: “No crimes were reported.”

He added that police did not observe any disruptive behavior by teenagers while in the store.

“I myself have been in CVS when school gets out,” said Carol Cavanaugh, the superintendent of the Hopkinton Public Schools. “I will tell you that I have seen 40 kids come through the door. I will say that they’re loud and obnoxious and kind of running up and down the aisles. I can imagine that it must be kind of a little battle with them and the manager. But I did not get the impression that there was stealing.”

She described the behavior as “more of a middle school thing” because many of the district’s older teens have jobs or are involved in sports.

The superintendent also questioned if students could be stealing things they really need, “or if it’s just a game.”

Cavanaugh also said she has seen groups of teens hanging out at the HCAM-TV building on Main Street after school.

Said Cavanaugh: “Maybe it’s because they have no place else to go.”

At past town meetings earlier this year, residents have made suggestions for a community center that could provide activities for all ages.

“During the summer, the district does offer a program for kids who need additional academic support so that they don’t experience learning loss,” Cavanaugh said. “This is different from the typical extended-year program that all school districts offer for special education students. There are also programs for non-native-English speakers.”

The schools do provide after-school clubs and activities during the academic year, according to Cavanaugh. But they are typically offered one day a week. This raises the issue of after-school transportation.

“Unless they have a parent who can get you at 2:25 or 3:25 p.m., you are going to walk the streets of Hopkinton,” she explained. “And that’s when you could get into trouble because you have nothing to do.”

Because of budget constraints, it would be difficult to pay teachers to stay after school to run more activities or to hire vans.

“There are a lot of inter- and intramural sports that we offer for middle schoolers,” Cavanaugh added. “But I wouldn’t say that it’s enough to offer every kid who would be going downtown. We just don’t have it.”

Bill’s Pizzeria on Main Street is a popular teen hangout, she added. If teens purchase food, behave in a respectful manner and don’t litter the property, they should be treated the same as other customers.

“It’s definitely happening, the rowdiness,” said Zack Siarkos, who owns and runs Bill’s. “But it’s not like it’s anything new. It’s been going on for some years. Some years are better than others.”

For Bill’s, problems tend to occur on early release days, when packs of up to 50 teens show up at once. In advance of the early dismissal for the last day of school on June 21, Siarkos requested that a police officer walk through the pizzeria in the early afternoon. The officer arrived shortly before noon.

“For us, it’s mostly damage, not really theft,” Siarkos explained. “They are cutting up the booths and breaking stuff in the bathroom — breaking the dryers and the soap dispensers, making a mess, leaving trash. And, of course, the gumballs and candy everywhere.”

Stressed Siarkos: “It’s not all the kids who do this.”

He tried to implement a policy where teens would not be allowed to eat inside Bill’s, but he “received pushback from parents.”

“But it’s not like we are babysitters,” Siarkos explained. “They are able to eat in here, but they can’t hang out all day. Once they are done, they are asked to go, because other customers want the seats. On half-days, it usually works out well because they are our only customers early in the day. Then they leave when it starts to get busy.”

One difficulty Cavanaugh noted is that teens often are cashiers at retail establishments, and it would be hard for them to diffuse difficult situations with their peers.

Said Cavanaugh: “If you’re a cashier, you’re a cashier; you’re not a security guard.”

The pandemic has affected many teens’ behavior, she said, noting the heavy use of social media that didn’t exist a few years ago. Last year, districts across the country were impacted by TikTok challenges, where teens would be encouraged to destroy school property or behave in less than appropriate ways.

“We still say that our kids don’t really know how to do school, so to speak,” she said. “A big piece of that is social media. … It’s a game.”

Pat Savage, the interim director of the Parks & Recreation Department, said there is a breadth of activities offered. But primarily, they are athletic offerings, she acknowledged.

“Hopkinton is a town that is very sports-oriented,” she said. “But there are some teens who don’t like or don’t want to participate in sports.”

She added that increasing programming for teens and other underserved populations is something she has discussed with program coordinators and likely will be addressed when a permanent director is hired.

“It’s a game,” Savage said of the recent shoplifting allegations. “It’s a challenge. Teens are bored. This is not something that is unique to Hopkinton.”

The Parks & Recreation Department is a good resource for young people, she continued. In addition to athletic programming, it offers employment opportunities for teens. Lifeguards and camp counselors are positions that tend to attract high school and college students. In addition, she has discussed a counselor training program for middle school-aged students.

“There are always volunteer opportunities in town where they would be very much appreciated,” Savage said. She suggested the Senior Center, the library and the food pantry as places where help is needed.

“It’s a difficult age because teens are looking for independence,” she continued. “But teens develop at different rates, and not everyone is at the same maturity level.”

5 Comments

  1. Janine LeBlanc

    Thank you Hopkinton Independent for your straight forward, non-sensational reporting. It’s refreshing to have such a great source for information,

    • Mary Ellen Gambon

      Thank you very much.

  2. Nancy McBride

    Reading this brings back memories of my own Hopkinton childhood in the 60s and 70s, when there was “nothing to do.” Around 1967 or so, the popular high school boys stood outside Katz’s Drugstore on the corner, which had a huge plate glass front window at the time, and was closed at night. You could always expect to see boys standing here under the streetlight. One night, with no anger nor malicious intent, one boy pushed another boy in jest, and he flew through the window. It was a huge deal in town and calls to action to deter “gang activity” in town. Some things don’t change.

  3. Brian Smith

    Renovating the old Center School into a community center would help to solve this issue. Yes the building needs work, but for the long term, you have a haven for kids to go after school that isn’t school-related.

  4. MARY O

    WHY ARE THE KIDS NOT ALLOWED TO GO HOME?

Key Storage 4.14.22