AAFES tours aimed at discouraging shoplifting
June 17, 2014
WIESBADEN, Germany - "How many of you know that there are cameras in the store?"
That's one of the many things Hainerberg Elementary School students encountered during visits to Wiesbaden's Main Exchange last week. The special tours for the school's third-graders were aimed at making an impression on the young community members about the consequences of shoplifting before the start of summer vacation.
"We're basically focusing on the third-graders to prepare them as they get older regarding what happens to an individual as far as shoplifting is concerned," said Joanne Gates, Army and Air Force Exchange Service Wiesbaden loss prevention manager. "Their minds are so impressionable at this age, and they remember this for life."
As the students were led through Wiesbaden's Main Exchange, store detectives Bryan Mattice and Arya Bidardel described the various ways they keep track of merchandise, monitor theft and deal with shoplifting.
"We want to make sure the kids know the consequences of stealing," said Bidardel. "A lot of theft occurs at this facility (and other AAFES stores) and we want to reduce that."
"Stealing can cost you your ID card and possibly get you sent back to the States to be separated from your mom and dad," said Gates.
"The older they get, the harder it is to change their behavior," said Bidardel, explaining the effort to reach people at an important stage in their development. "You can still educate them -- they can still learn at this age."
Having done the tours in the past, Gates said it is critical that she and fellow law enforcement practitioners break the cycle of peer pressure. "We've found that it's almost like an initiation thing" to steal to impress one's friends.
In addition to having to answer to one's parents, losing ID card privileges and other consequences, the AAFES loss prevention specialists explained that any shoplifting case is accompanied by a $200 civil recovery administrative fee.
"When you steal something from the PX, who gets in trouble?" asked Mattice of his young tour-goers, answering that the sponsor is ultimately responsible for his or her child.
"Anyone who gets caught shoplifting in this facility has to take a ride to the MP Station," said Mattice. "We call it the walk of shame."
Military policeman Sgt. John Clark of the 529th Military Police Company underscored that message by asking, "How many of you like getting in trouble with your parents?"
"We see everything you do in the store," said Gates. "If you take something you didn't pay for I have to call the MPs. … Everything you do now has repercussions."
While learning a serious lesson about the consequences of criminal behavior, the youths also had a chance to speak over the squad car public address system, try on handcuffs and ask the MPs questions about their daily jobs.
"Our job is to make sure everyone is doing the right thing," said Walt Tobash, U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden civilian misconduct specialist.
"The people who work in this office (loss prevention) are extremely good at their jobs," Tobash told the young visitors. "You know stealing is wrong. If you steal from one of these facilities, your privileges will be removed for six months."
"You can run and hide, but it won't be for long," said Gates, warning shoplifters of all ages to be aware that they are being monitored while in AAFES facilities. "We will find out who you are."