[ The Real McCoy Online Home ]                                                                                                                        May 23, 2008

AAFES concerned about 
increased shoplifting costs

      DALLAS (Army and Air Force Exchange Service Public Affairs) -- Despite upgraded camera systems with DVR capability, educational campaigns focused on the consequences of stealing and a 2002 amendment allowing federal retailers to pursue losses and administrative costs related to shoplifting, thefts at Post Exchanges (PX) and Base Exchanges (BX, Air Force) rose last year, from 7,542 incidents in 2006 to 7,635 in 2007, according to Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) records. AAFES facilities are open only to authorized military patrons.

Photo: Fort McCoy AAFES personnel use video surveillance equipment to monitor the Post Exchange shopping area. (Photo by Rob Schuette)
Fort McCoy AAFES personnel use video surveillance equipment to monitor the Post Exchange shopping area. 
(Photo by Rob Schuette)

      While occurrences were up barely one percent, the average cost of products in detected cases went up AAFES-wide more than 8 percent, from $119 per incident in 2006 to $129 in 2007. Shoplifters focusing on designer purses and perfumes, name-brand electronics and other high-end items created increased costs for the military community as the amount of merchandise involved went up nearly 10 percent, from $898,851 in 2006 to $985,244.

      With a dual mission to provide quality goods and services at competitively low prices and generate earnings to support Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) programs, AAFES, which has contributed more than $2.4 billion to military quality-of-life programs in the past 10 years, continues to focus its efforts on reducing theft.

      "Shoplifting at the exchange results in a reduced return on investment to our primary shareholders -- the military community," said AAFES' Vice President of Loss Prevention Gerald Danish. "Because AAFES is a command with a mission to return earnings to MWR activities, shoplifting at the BX or PX is essentially the same as taking money directly from the pockets of the military families exchanges serve."

      In an effort to protect the MWR dividend AAFES provides annually and further reduce shoplifting incidents, Loss Prevention associates are stepping up education efforts to help highlight the cost and perils of stealing through local anti-shoplifting campaigns.             

      AAFES also is testing intelligent video analysis solutions that are expected to further reduce losses. Capable of alerting personnel to crucial incidents as they happen, the new systems will allow store personnel to intervene before merchandise even leaves the store.

      In addition to these measures, AAFES Loss Prevention teams continue to proactively identify store display areas that tend to have high theft rates.

      "No one likes catching shoplifters," said Danish. "In fact, one of our major objectives is to deter shoplifting before it ever happens by educating shoppers of all ages on the exchanges' ability to monitor and record activity throughout the store. It's our hope that individuals who might be considering theft will see the security measures, think twice and make the right decision for their family and career."

      If shoplifting is suspected, AAFES Loss Prevention associates turn the issue over to local law enforcement.

      In addition to possible disciplinary action and/or criminal prosecution, the Federal Claims Collection Act, which began March 1, 2002, allows AAFES to enact a flat, administrative cost (Civil Recovery) of $200.

      There may be further fees, in addition to the Civil Recovery Program, depending on the condition of the stolen merchandise.

      Ralph Kleemann, Fort McCoy AAFES general manager, said Fort McCoy has an active loss-prevention program, including video surveillance, in place.

      Anyone noting suspicious activity or potential theft in the Fort McCoy Main Exchange or other AAFES facilities should notify the on-duty AAFES manager.

      The Fort McCoy Garrison Command also takes this issue very seriously and is in complete support of the AAFES program.  They will pursue remedies, including legal action, when necessary, Kleemann said.

      Maj. Blaine A. Markuson, an attorney with the Fort McCoy Installation Legal Office, said Soldiers or other military personnel who are caught shoplifting are subject to punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). That includes active-duty personnel, mobilizing and demobilizing Soldiers, as well as military personnel at Fort McCoy for battle assembly or extended combat training, he said.

      Under the UCMJ, the unit commander, working in conjunction with the unit's judge advocate, determines the nature of the punishment. Markuson said some of the options include a letter of reprimand to be placed in the Soldiers Official Military Personnel File, Article 15 proceedings and even a possible court-martial.

      If the alleged perpetrator is a military dependent or a retiree who is not subject to the UCMJ, they may receive a letter revoking their exchange privileges, as well as running the risk of being barred from Fort McCoy for a limited period of time.

      Additionally, these personnel will be issued a citation to appear in federal magistrate court and will be prosecuted by the U.S. Attorneys Office for the Western District of Wisconsin, Markuson said.

      For more information about the legal process, call the Fort McCoy Installation Legal Office at (608) 388-2165.


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