Shoplifting hurts futures, families, communities
February 18, 2010
- Government civilian reaches out to youth to discourage shoplifting
- Military kids learn about consequences of shoplifting
- Military community takes direct approach to fight shoplifting
- Loss prevention briefings target military youth
Don Gwinn doesn't want to see them in his office later, so he faces the audience, walking back and forth, and up and down the middle aisle, determined to make eye-contact with hundreds of students.
"(Loss prevention briefings) are a proactive effort to get the word out to the kids and let them know what the ramifications are for shoplifting," said Gwinn, the U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern's civilian misconduct officer, who handles reported cases of crimes committed by U.S. Army-affiliated civilians receiving logistical support within the Kaiserslautern military community.
Consequences, Gwinn cites, range from losing on-post privileges, damaging future employment and education opportunities, and causing serious trouble for the sponsoring parent.
He added that shoplifting harms everyone, especially in the military community, since Army and Air Force Exchange Service profits help fund Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs.
Starting last year, Gwinn joined in on the established AAFES - Europe Loss Prevention Briefings held at KMC elementary, middle and high schools.
"When (Army) kids are caught shoplifting in one of our stores, Mr. Gwinn processes the actual cases and determines whether they should receive any certain type of punishment," said Kenneth Randell, the AAFES-E Loss Prevention manager, on why it made sense for them to team up for these briefings.
Randell regularly presents these briefings to Department of Defense Dependents Schools in the KMC, Mannheim and Baumholder.
"I just want to let them know that they may not have gotten caught yet, but (AAFES) does have a camera system in place, and I do have detectives who are out there, and eventually, they will get caught," he said.
Beside the consequences Gwinn listed, Randell said that AAFES has its own procedure for punishing shoplifters by exacting a $200 civil recovery fee.
The example he gave during the briefings was if someone walks out of the store without paying for a .50-cent pack of gum, it will then cost $200.50.
Randell and Gwinn conducted briefings for Kaiserslautern Elementary School fifth graders last year.
So far this year, they have done briefings at the Kaiserslautern Middle and High Schools, breaking up the briefings for each grade.
"We have assemblies all the time, but the kids were so attentive, and I think the message really got through to them," said Dr. Susan Hargis, the KMS principal, about the briefings held for her sixth, seventh and eighth graders. "The real important part was the question and answer because the kids asked a lot of thought-provoking questions, and (Randell and Gwinn) were able to answer them."
Gwinn said they plan to conduct loss prevention briefings in the future at all the 11 KMC schools, starting with Ramstein schools in March.
The last briefing they conducted was Feb. 9 for KMS seventh graders.
Caitlin Hutchison, 13, a KMS seventh grader, attended this briefing and thought it was interesting "you know a lot of this stuff nobody would tell you when you were little because you would be all scared and stuff, but now, it's important to learn it."
Her mother, Amanda Hutchison, also attended the briefing, and the shoplifting statistics here surprised her.
"Wow! - 70 percent of shoplifting here, as Mr. Gwinn said, occurs from kids 9 to 17 years old," she said. "It just surprised me that so much (shoplifting) was done by kids."
Gwinn hopes to decrease this percentage by doing these briefings and letting this age group know the consequences of shoplifting.
"They really get a lot of action taken against them," he said. "Host nation (officials) can also take action against them for shoplifting."