By Natalie LakosilMarch 23, 2012
"We can see you," said Morris Baier, loss prevention manager, Fort Huachuca Exchange, when speaking about shoplifters.
With 47 cameras already in place at the Exchange on Fort Huachuca, it is no surprise Baier and his staff see all. "We just got approved for an upgrade so we are getting 13 new cameras, a total of 60 in the store. We have an array of them, both fixed cameras and motion cameras. We are able to cover all areas of the store," Baier said.
High tech equipment, cameras and electronic-article surveillance -- the device that sounds when a customer walks through with merchandise that has not been deactivated -- stop a lot of people from stealing, Baier said.
"That equipment and the fact that also we tag some of the stuff manually, like on the Coach purses, helps prevent loss, but a lot of the products now that are made. Every year, more and more are being made with source-tags, so we have to deactivate them at the register before they go out, so that's also helping," said Colleen Murray, general manager, Fort Huachuca Exchange.
"The tags that are on the designer purses like Coach and Dooney [and Bourke] -- we call them 'screamers.' You can't get near the door or if you try to cut them, they go off, so it's a really good deterrent," Baier said.
"And now we are going to the spider webs, which completely encase a product in a web-like netting. They seem to be one of the biggest things now; they wrap all the way around a product like on a gaming system," he added.
In 2011, the Exchange apprehended 25 shoplifters and five employee thieves. This is lower than the previous year. In 2010, 29 shoplifters were apprehended and six employee thieves.
There is no typical profile for a shoplifter, Baier said. "You can look in a mirror and say 'I'm not a shoplifter.' Well, tomorrow you could be. There is no real profile," he said.
"We do our job on gut reactions. We watch somebody, we watch what they do, their mannerisms and we will stay with that person, but to profile somebody, there is no such thing," Baier added.
"We have caught 70-year-old retired widows, officers, enlisted, dependents, kids, every type," Murray said.
When someone is caught, they have to sign a letter for civil recovery. The civil recovery program charges the shoplifter $200 for the administrative fees. If the merchandise is saleable, then the shoplifter only has to pay the $200 dollars. If the product is taken and not recovered, the store charges the thief the cost of the merchandise plus the $200. If the item is saleable, but at a reduced rate, the shoplifter is charged the difference.
"So, no matter what, we get the 200 dollars," Baier said.
"If we don't get the 200 dollars, then a second letter goes to the commander, and if that doesn't work, we send it to the treasury offset program and they will set up an account and take it out of your income tax," Baier said. "We also contact the military police," he added.
"We also train our new hires. I teach them, bring them in and show them the cameras because internal theft is just as bad, if not worse, than external," Baier said.
"They tell us 70 percent of the theft of the loss on AAFES is from internal theft, and 30 percent is external," Murray said.
"People are finding ways around the system, not necessarily taking merchandise or stuff going out the back door, but other ways," Murray said. "The stock room, back door and all exists employees go through all have electronic article surveillance," she added.
"The more we lose, the less money goes on the bottom line to [F]MWR [Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation] for our dividends because that comes right out of our final numbers, which … determine what we are going to give back to the military. So basically when you think about it, when they are stealing from us, they are stealing from themselves because they are stealing from possible dividends," Murray said.
"If a customer sees someone shoplifting they should report it to closest manager or associate, and they call us and we pick up on it from there. Loss prevention is a tool used not just here but retail-wide, and it prevents losses to the retailers, and that's what we are here for. We protect assets," Baier said.
"We will keep 100-percent contact with the person on camera; we will watch that person after they have concealed [an item] until they leave the store. They must get past the last register, then we go out, introduce ourselves, and ask them [to come] back to our office and talk from there," Baier said.
"AAFES has a very proactive approach now. We have a shoplifting awareness program we put into place that targets children, juveniles age 5 to 17. It has been around for about three years. We bring them in and we have a program. I show them a movie about shoplifting, handouts for parents, bring them in to my office show them the cameras and make them certificates. I have worked with Girl Scouts before and other groups. We have it as much as we can, usually about twice a year, "Baier said.
If a group or person would like to attend a program on theft, contact Baier at 458.7830, ext. 130.
"It's a big deterrent because they go in and see all those cameras and realize they aren't going to be able to take anything, they are being watched, and they see someone is watching them," Murray said.
"And I explain to them, if you steal from this company, you will never work for this company, and you will be lucky if you get into the military if you ever want to go there. So, it's a really big deterrent and our juveniles [involved in theft] have dropped almost to zero," Baier said.