By Ray KozakewiczAugust 15, 2013
FORT LEE, Va. (Aug. 15, 2013) -- Michelle Jenerette, a Fort Lee Exchange safety security associate, watched a bank of video screens intently and began following a young woman on one of the large monitors.
It was early in the morning Aug. 7 with just a few shoppers at the store. She turned her keyboard controller and zoomed the camera for a tight close-up. Nayla Brant, another safety security associate, also viewed the screen.
Over the next few minutes, they watched the suspect pick up several garments in the women's department, and then some makeup in the cosmetics department. The woman, who was alone, then entered a dressing room.
Several minutes later, they observed the woman coming out of the dressing room with only her pocketbook. The woman also had a huskier appearance.
Brant notified Regina Russell, Exchange Loss Prevention manager, and proceeded into the mall to stop the suspected shoplifter.
The associate quickly exited the Loss Prevention Office and walked into the mall as the woman entered the area.
Brant approached the woman and identified herself, and asked for ID.
"Why do you need my ID?" the woman asked while she located it in her wallet.
"Please come with me to our office," Brant politely said.
The associate escorted the woman into the Loss Prevention Office where Ron Smith, a Fort Lee Department of the Army Civilian Police officer, and Russell were waiting.
Also in the office were nine teens from the American Red Cross and Army Community Service Teen Camp program. This all had been a role-playing exercise especially for the teens, who gained a behind-the-scenes look at the Exchange loss prevention operation.
Many watched the cameras in the compact room as Jenerette reported what she saw and demonstrated how to zoom in with her controller. Russell also reported to the full group how her team performs and works with both the post military police and the local police departments.
One of the teens, Marshall Dunn, even accompanied Brant and observed how she questioned the suspected shoplifter.
After the suspect came into Loss Prevention office, Russell said, "The reason you have been stopped and detained is because there is a possibility you exited our facility without rendering proper payment for merchandise. We will be calling the military police to further the investigation."
For purposes of the role-playing, Smith stepped forward and explained how he works with the loss prevention team.
"They first give me a briefing on the details of their investigation and more than 90 percent of the time they have video surveillance I can view," Smith said.
The officer viewed the video footage and described what he observed to the teens. Smith spoke to the suspect and said the surveillance video showed her with Exchange merchandise. He checked her purse and found the cosmetics, and also told her she appeared to be wearing several shirts under her sweater now.
To fully make it real-life, Smith put handcuffs on the suspect, who was actually Christine Lindberg, an Exchange manager. This caught the attention of the students.
"I thought that the Loss Prevention Seminar was excellent," said Savanna Ellis, who is an 8th grader at Collegiate School. "The seminar gave us a behind-the-scenes look of the Exchange. It was a great learning experience and it was really fun learning how to catch a shoplifter. I thought it was great when the Loss Prevention team acted out a real-life situation with a shoplifter. I found out that a lot actually happens behind the scenes. I really think that more kids should be exposed to this program."
"The purpose of the teen workshop was to create awareness for them," said Russell. "We try to do other community awareness with youths on the post. We try to make it a fun experience too."
She said the Exchange averages about 4-to-5 thefts a month from juveniles.
"This is high," noted Russell. "That's why we hold awareness programs with young people and hope it can deter theft."
AAFES also partners with the local police departments and Fort Lee Military Police.
"If they have a case of break-ins on the post, the police may need our assistance to review our videos. This may help them accumulate evidence," said Russell.
The Exchange videos go back more than five years. There are more than 60 fixed and movable cameras throughout the facility.
"We are able to zoom in to look into purses, and we literally can tell if a woman is wearing the same earrings she entered the Exchange wearing or left with different ones," she said.
Following the exercise, the teens viewed a PowerPoint presentation on crime awareness in the Exchange conference room and heard several speakers including Det. Murray B. Trelford from Military Investigations: Urvi Acharva, acting facility manager for the Exchange; and Tina Danzey, Exchange Human Resource manager. Jeffrey Gunn, AAFES Area Loss Prevention manager -- Virginia, also observed the exercise and program.
In summing up her experience, Ellis said, "It was awesome."
"I thought it was excellent too," said Russell. "The teens asked some good questions of all of us. I'd like to do it again."