Shoplifting steals spotlight from holiday season

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- With the holidays in full swing, shoplifting is once again in the forefront for retailers, especially the Maxwell-Gunter Base Exchange.

So far, 30 individuals have been charged with shoplifting in 2008 at Maxwell.

"As the holiday season approaches, more customers will come into our stores, and that means the potential for shoplifting grows tremendously," said Jerry Danish, vice president of loss prevention for the Army and Air Force Exchange Service in a October 2008 newsletter.

Mr. Danish also reiterated that AAFES leadership depends on well-informed, conscientious associates to know their merchandise as well as their customers to provide a first-line defense against shoplifting.

In addition, AAFES attempts to combat shoplifting with well-trained loss prevention teams, high-tech camera systems throughout the store and electronic article surveillance systems, he said.

The electronic article surveillance system is a small device attached to an item that must be removed by a sales associate upon check out. Should an individual attempt to exit the store with the device intact, an alarm will activate.

When asked about the specific demographic details of the "typical" shoplifter, Lori Davis, 42nd Air Base Wing Security Forces Squadron chief of reports and analysis, said there is no such thing. Offenders come from cross the board including officers, enlisted members, retirees, dependents, contractors and civilians, she said.

"The excuses are as varied as the items that are stolen - none of which work for anyone," Ms. Davis continued. "Items small in size or low in dollar amount are typically targeted as they are more easily concealed."

The legal ramifications for shoplifters depend on the status of the individual.
"Once caught for shoplifting, the subject is processed through the 42nd ABW SFS and charges for Larceny/Theft are filed," Ms. Davis said.

Active-duty military members are processed through their commander under Article 21 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice for Larceny, while civilians, retirees, dependents are referred to legal, she continued.

"It is not only the suspect who is impacted, but also the sponsor or even the entire family depending on who is held responsible," Ms. Davis said.

After the individual is charged with shoplifting, all AAFES/Commissary privileges are suspended and the military identification card is confiscated, Ms. Davis said. The suspension of privileges lasts one year from the date of the incident.

Once the suspension period has elapsed, given no further incidents occurred, a new military identification card can be obtained and privileges restored.

"However, a record is maintained in the SFS database that can reflect upon future clearance and background checks," she added.

Those patronizing the BX can aid in the fight against shoplifting by not looking the other way.

"Report any suspicious activity to AAFES personnel immediately with as much detail as possible," Ms. Davis said. "But do not engage the suspects yourself."

With the dual mission of AAFES to provide quality merchandise and services to its customers at competitively low prices and to generate earnings that provide a dividend to support morale, welfare, and recreation programs, shoplifting at the BX is essentially the same as taking money directly from the pockets of the military families exchanges serve, Mr. Danish said.

"Shoplifting affects us all, if for no other reason than with the raising of prices on goods and services. Be a good steward of the Armed Forces and Air Force core values; not only is shoplifting a crime, it also reflects badly upon us all," Ms. Davis said.