By Keith PannellDecember 16, 2019
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany - The holiday season can bring out the best...and worst in people. Unfortunately, Jeffrey Gunn, Army and Air Force Exchange Service Loss Prevention Manager for the Kaiserslautern Military Community sees the bad decisions made by some people up close.
More than 20 screens fill a small room where Gunn and his loss prevention employees watch for shoplifters in the AAFES stores across the KMC.
"Just like off-base retailers, we definitely see an increase in shoplifting during the holiday season," Gunn said. "Our stats bear that out. Besides actually detaining shoplifters, we find more empty packages on the sales floor this time of year."
Shoplifters made off with $5,200 worth of stolen merchandise all of last year, which Gunn attributes to his staff and other loss prevention methods. They detained 59 people for the crimes.
Gunn said people shoplift for various reasons such as lack of funds, on a dare, to impress someone or just for the thrill of it.
"Whatever their reason, it's a bad choice," he said. "At the AAFES facilities here in the KMC, most of our shoplifting incidents are family members across the age range."
Law enforcement turns military members caught shoplifting over to the unit.
"When a person is detained for shoplifting, law enforcement is called. They're handcuffed and taken to the law enforcement center. A report is filed and they will have a criminal record that usually lasts five years or longer," according to Rickey Anderson, United States Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz Civilian Misconduct Officer.
If an Army civilian or family member, no matter what age, is caught shoplifting, their case will go to Anderson.
"I work closely with AAFES, especially this time of year," Anderson said. "I get the report from law enforcement and then I'm on the phone with loss prevention to fill in details."
Gunn and his staff use a combination of decades of experience in loss prevention, cameras with powerful zoom lenses and walking the sales floor to catch shoplifters.
"Whether it's a parent or a first sergeant or commander of a military member caught shoplifting, they all want to see the recording," Gunn said. "We have no problem showing them."
Regardless of the price tag on the stolen item, one thing the sponsor of a shoplifter, or the shoplifter themselves if they're military, will be hit with is an automatic $200 Civil Recovery fee.
The Civil Recovery Act was included in the National Defense Authorization Act in 2002. It allows AAFES to recover the "costs related to shoplifting, theft detection and theft prevention."
"If we're unable to recover the shoplifted item or items and resell them as new, the cost of the items will be added to the Civil Recovery fee," Gunn said.
Regardless of why people shoplift, it's an issue Anderson takes seriously.
Under the USAG RP Civilian Misconduct Action Authority Program, and in accordance with Army in Europe Regulation 27-9, those caught shoplifting at AAFES facilities will have their AAFES privileges temporarily suspended for a period of one year (this happens at the time of the offense) or until adjudicated by the CMAA.
"We're not talking just about the PX," Anderson said. "We're talking about every facility with the AAFES name on it including the food court, the movie theater, the shoppettes, everything at every AAFES facility in the world."
He added the shoplifter will have to get a new temporary ID card with the Exchange privileges removed and will most likely have to do community service.
To help curtail much of the stealing-on-a-dare shoplifting from school-aged children, Anderson and law enforcement personnel go to KMC area schools to talk about the perils of shoplifting.
"Because AAFES money funds many MWR services, people who shoplift are literally taking money away from service members and military families," Anderson said with finality.