Shoplifting ruins careers, reputations
October 17, 2013
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (October 17, 2013) -- With so many Family assistance programs on the installation, and the high morals and ethics that come from military duty, many people might think that shoplifting on post is not a concern.
Although the post has low statistics, it still happens, according to a press release from Fort Rucker Army and Air Force Exchange Service, and shoplifting not only can damage careers, it hurts the entire military community.
"The community, as a whole, suffers as a result of those stealing from the exchange," stated the press release. "With a dual mission to provide quality goods and services at competitively low prices, and generate earnings to support morale, welfare and recreation installation programs for its shareholders, the exchange has contributed more than $2.4 billion to military quality of life programs in the past 10 years."
The exchange is equipped with closed-circuit televisions with (digital video recording) technology and high-tech electronic article surveillance, and the loss prevention professionals are some of the best to ensure that Soldiers, civilians and Family members who obey the law stay safe from those who would break it.
"We have excellent security systems at all of our facilities and AAFES is no different," said Bill Kesler, military police investigator. "People can be banned from shopping on post and barred from coming on post if they are known shoplifters."
With one poor decision, someone's life, whether civilian, Family member or service member can take a drastic turn by shoplifting.
Consequences of being caught shoplifting for active-duty members can include a reduction in rank, forfeiture of pay and allowances, a letter of reprimand, getting an Article 15, being dishonorably discharged from the military and jail time, according to Maj. Joshua Munch, deputy provost marshal.
"A Soldier will usually face some type of criminal as well as administrative punishment," he said. "They would be punished under Article 121 -- Larceny and Wrongful Appropriation. The commander has a lot of options after the investigation on how to punish that Soldier. It all depends on the chain of command and the totality of the circumstances."
If a Soldier is caught off post, Munch said punishment can happen in three ways. The police can take full jurisdiction and prosecute, civilian police can refer the case over to the military and let the military handle the prosecution, or the Soldier can be prosecuted on both sides because one is handled by the state and the other is federal through Uniform Code of Military Justice, so it is not double jeopardy. But Munch said that the latter is usually only the decision if it is a violent felony-type case.
In addition to possible disciplinary action and criminal prosecution if a person is caught shoplifting on post, the Federal Claims Collection Act allows the exchange to enact a flat, administrative cost of $200.
There may be further fees, according to the press release, but it depends on the condition of the stolen merchandise.
"The bottom line is that it's just not worth it," said the Don Walter Jr., exchange main store manager. "Throwing away your future to try and save a few bucks is a tremendous price to pay."
When a Family member or civilian employee are caught stealing on post, Kesler said that it is handled just like any other store loss prevention action -- officers apprehend the thief and they are taken to the station where they are processed.
"Juvenile shoplifters are released to their parents after they are processed and they will go through the Youth Assistance Program," he said. "Children can be punished anywhere from community service to if they keep doing it then the entire Family can be evicted from post.
"Also, if the offense is bad enough or if the behavior continues, the offender can be taken to the county diversion center," he added. "Children often want attention and the thrill of getting away with something, so many times the punishment can be handled at the station and at home."
Any crime that happens on the installation is a federal crime, and the provost marshal office assimilates Alabama state laws to deal with shoplifting, but Munch said that with AAFES doing such a great job, that very few cases come to the military police.
While no dollar amount can be placed on the human cost of a career lost by a poor decision, it is the exchange's hope that educating shoppers on the safeguards in place and the results for those caught shoplifting will result in fewer incidences and, in turn, fewer careers derailed by a moment of poor judgment, the press release stated.
As a result of AAFES's aggressive shoplifting deterrence program, the Fort Rucker Exchange saw shoplifting cases decrease by 22 percent -- from 37 cases in 2011 to 29. However, according to the release, the value of merchandise involved in these incidents increased from $2,720.44 to $4,612.16 in 2012.