FORT BENNING, Ga. (July 11, 2012) -- The Directorate of Emergency Services has a bulletin for all personnel: Don't leave military-issued equipment or high-value items lying around inside your personally owned car or truck.
Fort Benning has adopted an Army policy prohibiting service members assigned here from storing gear known as TA-50 in vehicles parked on or off post. It may be transported for duty requirements but cannot be left unsecured or unattended.
In addition, Soldiers are not allowed to store high-value items in plain view within their vehicles, according to the policy memorandum distributed June 29. That includes -- but isn't limited to -- stereo equipment not permanently installed, purses or wallets, toolboxes, cellphones, GPS systems, and portable music or media devices.
"We have seen a lot of opportunity crime whereby Soldiers leave high-value and easily pilfered items in their cars like TA-50, laptops, GPS and iPhones," said Fort Benning Police Chief Kevin Clarke. "This policy is intended to mitigate these vulnerabilities and protect our Soldiers from becoming victims of opportunity criminals."
A 30-day grace period is under way on post, but installation police will begin writing tickets for improper storage at the end of July, he said.
"For the first 30 days, police officers who observe a vehicle with items stored in violation of the policy will simply alert the vehicle owner to the new policy. Once 30 days have expired, personnel in violation of this policy will be cited," he said.
Clarke said personnel will be hit with a violation of post policy. In terms of enforcement, the citation goes to the vehicle owner, or person it's registered to.
Violations will be reported to Soldier's commands, the police chief said. Commanders and leaders will determine appropriate punishment.
Individuals may be subject to administrative or disciplinary action under the Uniform Code of Military Justice and rendered ineligible to file claims against the government, according to the policy memo.
Maj. Erinn Kaine, the DES operations officer who headed up the policy action, said the desired effect is more protective than punitive in nature.
"It's not uncommon for other Army installations to have policies like this. It gives us another means to protect our Soldiers and their belongings from opportunity theft and crime," she said. "Hopefully, it's a way to get people to think and not leave those types of items out. For the most part, we have relatively low crime here. We just don't want our residents to leave government property in their vehicles or items of high value.
"It's our duty within DES to identify the means of more preventive measures, so we can be more proactive instead of reactive with any criminal activity. … We appreciate the cooperation and help from the Fort Benning community."
When a thief breaks into a vehicle, collateral damage is another result, Clarke said. For example, it could leave a window broken or a door pried open. Thieves often break latching mechanisms on internal storage compartments to look for other items to steal. They also might inadvertently find items with personal identification information that can be used for identity theft.
"The policy is intended to protect our force," he said. "High-value and easily pilfered items should not be left in plain view in a car. … This policy is intended to stop our Soldiers from leaving these items in their cars and making themselves targets of the opportunity crimes."