AAFES expands program, surveillance to catch shoplifters

Although U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart has seen an increase in the number of shoplifting incidents in 2009, several new measures will make getting away with it more difficult.

Dandy Young, loss prevention manager for the garrisons’ Army & Air Force Exchange Service, said he’s really cracking down on theft this year, especially as the holidays approach.

New anti-theft measures include the installation of digital, motion and light sensor surveillance systems at every garrison shoppette.

“We used to use VCR tapes,” Young said. “Now we use a 24-hour system that records every camera in the facility and maintains the video for up to 90 days.”
According to industry statistical data, one in 11 people shoplift and 25 percent are children. So, AAFES conducts community and school events, explaining the consequences for stealing.

The minimum penalty for first-offense shoplifting is six months of suspended AAFES privileges Europe-wide, in addition to a $200 civil recovery fee.

Civilian shoplifters appear before the local Civilian Misconduct Action Authority Board. Soldiers are disciplined according to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
During the holidays, AAFES will keep a maximum of employees on-hand.

“We’re not trying to keep it a secret that we’re here and that we’re protecting our merchandise,” Young said.

Unfortunately, shoplifting is still a problem in the Stuttgart military community. From Jan. 1 to Oct. 16 this year, there were 58 incidences of shoplifting, compared to 45 last year.

“This summer, we did have a spike of almost 30 shoplifting cases in 60 days,” said Tony Black, assistant CMAA to Garrison Commander Col. Richard M. Pastore. “The vast majority of these cases involved adolescents.”

Shoplifters are inventing new ways to knick items, Young said, which include “price switching” (taking a mark-down sticker off of one item and putting  it on another) and “accidental shoplifting” (placing items in a stroller and neglecting to check them out).

Consuming food without paying for it or refunding a marked-down item for its full price are other forms of theft.

Shoplifting affects the entire garrison, Young said. AAFES’ earnings are returned to the community. Last year, AAFES gave about $495,000 to USAG Stuttgart. It would have been an additional $2,000, had not the company had recover the cost of stolen goods.

Fortunately, he added, it’s harder to succeed in stealing now. He attributes the rise in shoplifting incidents to more perpetrators being caught.

“Is shoplifting on the rise?” Young asked. “No. We’re just watching a little harder.”