It ranks up there with the first paycheck as the moment when you know your professional life has really begun -- having your lunch stolen from the office fridge. So when your "do not touch" signs are ignored, and last night's leftovers are missing, what can you really do?
The answer for one Houston-area police station suffering from a case of refrigerator robbery was to set up a sting operation. On Feb. 22, the Deer Park Police Department charged patrol officer Kevin Yang after reportedly catching him on video in the act, stealing a Monster Energy Drink from the station's communal refrigerator.
For a year, officers' food and drinks -- including 60 pounds of deer sausage -- went missing from the station's breakroom. Fed up, Deer Park Police Chief Greg Griggs finally stocked the fridge with Monster Energy drinks and set up surveillance cameras. The thief, Griggs said, turned out to be Yang, a patrol officer for three years. Griggs said that tape showed him taking a Monster Energy drink labeled with a detective's initials, as well as a sandwich and other drinks.
Called in for questioning by police, Yang claimed that he was helping clean out the fridge. "A lot of times we clean up the community refrigerator like once a week," he said, according to KTRK-TV. "We take out everything by Friday or certain date or everything gets thrown out, which we don't do here." He also was reportedly caught taking more energy drinks and a sandwich. The officer was subsequently charged with misdemeanor theft charges, and Griggs put the officer on a 30-day suspension, without pay.
But the surveillance operation was riddled with potential legal problems. So on Thursday, the city dropped all charges against Yang on the condition that he promise not to sue the city. Yang is back on duty. In total, he lost $4,500 during the suspension but he has agreed not to challenge the loss of salary. "I think it will be a long time before we have anything missing out of the Deer Park refrigerator," Police Chief Griggs reportedly said.
Avoiding Office Fridge Smells And Dirt
Of course, theft is not the only potential source of friction when it comes to the communal refrigerator. Recently, on the Today Show, an editor from Woman's Day made these recommendations:
- Treat the fridge as a shared space. This is not your house, so make sure everything is covered to control odors
- Take milk off the fridge door. Everything is most fresh when it's on the trays in the fridge.
- Use stainless steel boxes to hold leftovers. Cartons and plastic containers can leak, and create odors.
- When in doubt, throw it out.
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