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Home : News : News
NEWS | July 15, 2010

Cameras, monitors keep an eye out for shoplifters

By Mike Joseph 502nd Air Base Wing OL-A Public Affairs

The Army and Air Force Exchange Service facilities at Lackland and the base legal office have a message for potential shoplifters: the eyes have it.

Every AAFES facility on Lackland - 33 food, retail and fuel dispensing outlets - not only have surveillance cameras inside and out, but a bank of monitors recording it all under the watchful eyes of certified AAFES loss prevention associates.

The Lackland main base exchange has more than 90 cameras trained at entry/exit points, each point of sale (14 cash registers) and everywhere in between. The videos are recorded and stored, easily accessible for review.

"We see so many situations where an Airman has stolen something and it's all right there on video," said Capt. Drew Marksity, assistant staff judge advocate. "It's an open and shut case - there's no getting out of it at that point.

"There's not a part of those stores that isn't covered. We would love never to have any larceny cases again, no theft cases at the BX, because there's no reason for someone to steal from there. It's a crime that doesn't make any sense."

He said these cases often result in courts-martial. A recent conviction for BX larceny where an Airman stole golf clubs and a golf bag resulted in two months confinement, $1,000 fine, forfeitures of $2,000 a month for two months, a reprimand and a punitive discharge from the Air Force.

According to Robert Groenleer, AAFES loss prevention manager at Lackland, the goal of AAFES loss prevention is to increase company earnings by reducing losses.

In addition to shoplifting, LP associates monitor for employee theft, fraud and identity theft from credit cards and checks, and potential accidents.

He said the LP staff also support the surveillance system by walking the stores.

"As long as people are in the store, somebody is monitoring," he said. "There's no profile for a person who's going to shoplift. It's the mannerisms, what merchandise they pick up, the rubbernecking, and the body language (that gives us indications)."

Electronics, DVDs, colognes and perfumes are prime targets for shoplifters, and those areas are watched closely. Removing items from packaging and concealing them in pockets is one attempt for shoplifters to circumvent the electronic article surveillance machines.

But potential shoplifters should beware.

"Sometimes we don't catch the act of shoplifting and find empty packing instead," Mr. Groenleer said. "In those cases, it's easy to go back and review video data to identify the individual who took the merchandise, maybe not by name but at least a description, which helps in catching them in the future.

"They may feel like they got away with it, but 99 percent of the time they come back and we end up catching them."

Shoplifters, whether military or civilian, pay a hefty price if caught. Military violators face misconduct charges, and possible jail time and a court-martial; civilians are prosecuted in a federal magistrate court.

Persons caught shoplifting at AAFES facilities are billed an administrative fee. If the stolen merchandise is damaged or not resalable as new, that cost is also added. Additionally, violators are banned from all base AAFES facilities for one year.

And that makes the video surveillance a valuable tool for law enforcement and prosecutors.

"It's the best evidence you can have," Captain Marksity said. "The jury or a judge can actually see the person; it's very incriminating.

"We want people to know the BX is a bad place to steal. You will get caught."