RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas –
Reports of shoplifting are down so far this summer at the base exchange and other Army and Air Force Exchange Service facilities at Randolph, but that doesn't mean the personnel who target thievery will let down their guard.
Cameras provide around-the-clock scrutiny every day of the week and AAFES loss prevention and 902nd Security Forces Squadron personnel are on the lookout whenever the stores are open.
"As long as the stores are open, someone is in there keeping an eye out," said Staff Sgt. Marcus Bernard, 902nd SFS NCO in charge, police services. "The cameras are recording 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so anything that happened can be replayed."
Sergeant Bernard said security forces patrol the new BX, the BXtra and the commissary at various times to look for - and deter - shoplifting.
"Most of the incidents occur from mid- to late afternoon," he said. "A majority of the time teenage dependents are responsible, and there are more females at fault than males."
Sergeant Bernard said females target jewelry and makeup while males prefer electronic items such as video games.
"The main hot spot at Randolph is the new BX," he said.
Sergeant Bernard said the amount of shoplifting at Randolph fluctuates from month to month, but it tends to pick up during the summer months, when students are out of school.
"It was pretty bad last summer," he said.
However, that hasn't proven to be the case this summer. Three incidents took place in June and only one so far in July, compared with five in April and seven in May. Just three cases were reported the first three months of the year.
Sergeant Bernard said uniformed personnel who patrol the facilities and signage help deter would-be shoplifters, and loss prevention personnel train their eyes on monitors fed with images from strategically placed cameras.
"The loss prevention guys know how to spot people," he said. "Shoplifters give off a vibe you can see through the cameras."
The AAFES facilities employ an arsenal of cameras, including 82 at the BX and 31 at the BXtra. Ten more cameras will be added at the BX in the next month.
Video evidence provides law enforcement officers with probable cause, allowing them to detain suspects at the scene and take them to the 902nd SFS for processing, Sergeant Bernard said.
Suspects who are not caught on the premises can be traced using credit card or Social Security numbers.
"Shoplifters usually buy something else," he said. "When you buy something, or return something, it creates a paper trail."
Suspects who are found guilty face a minimum fine of $250, Sergeant Bernard said. They also must reimburse AAFES for merchandise that has to be replaced.
"The shoplifter is charged what it would cost to place that package on the shelf the way it was before," he said.
In addition, shoplifters who live on base are banned from AAFES facilities for up to a year. Those who live off base but do not have a Department of Defense affiliation are banned from all of the joint bases - Randolph and Lackland Air Force Bases and Fort Sam Houston - for two years while those with a DoD affiliation are banned for one year.
Sergeant Bernard said shoplifting is a no-win proposition.
"Don't do it," he said. "If you shoplift, you will get caught."