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Story Last modified at 9:12 p.m. on Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Despite surveillance, shoplifting up at base exchange

BY Sgt. 1st Class JON CUPP
AAFES Public Affairs


A loss prevention specialist at Fort Benning, Ga., scans the store Sept. 16, 2010, from an electronic video surveillance room.
Photo by Vince Little Patricia Maynor

Shoplifting at U.S. Army and Air Force Exchange Service facilities at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson increased by 40 percent over last year, from 70 incidents in 2009 to 98 in 2010.

That despite a focus on Electronic Article Surveillance systems, closed-circuit television cameras and an aggressive youth shoplifting awareness campaign.

The recently released statistics reveal that the value of merchandise involved in these incidents also increased 16 percent from $12,177.74 in 2009 to $14,145.27 in 2010.

With the increase in shoplifting, Exchange associates will be intensifying their continuing efforts to thwart thefts in the upcoming year, according to Rick Byrd, Joint Military Mall general manager.

"We will continue aggressively targeting juvenile shoplifting through training sessions with children 5 to 17 years of age," Byrd said. "Additionally, we have installed EAS systems and stepped up tagging of high demand merchandise."

With a dual mission to provide quality goods and services at competitively low prices and generate earnings to support Morale, Welfare and Recreation or Services programs, the Exchange will work to stem the effects of shoplifting which takes money away from programs that benefit military service members and their families.

The Exchange has contributed more than $2.4 billion to military quality of life programs in the past ten years.

"Shoplifting from the exchange affects the entire military community," Byrd said. "Because the Exchange is a military command with a mission to return earnings to quality of life programs, shoplifting impacts the bottom line and, in essence, takes money directly from the pockets of military families."

If shoplifting is suspected, Exchange loss prevention associates turn the issue over to local law enforcement.

"The message to shoplifters is you're going to get caught eventually and what you will lose will far outweigh the value of the shoplifted item," Byrd said.

"You never know if the person standing next to you is a loss prevention associate or an alert customer who might turn you in."

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

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

This article published in The Alaska Star on Wednesday, January 12, 2011.