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Shoplifting Decreases While Costs to the Military Community Go Up

DALLAS -- The state of shoplifting on military installations is becoming a good news/bad news proposition as sophisticated anti-shoplifting measures work to decrease incidents, while increasingly aggressive thieves increase costs for all exchange shoppers.

The good news is that upgraded camera systems capable of recording to DVR as well as a 2002 amendment allowing federal retailers to pursue losses and administrative costs related to shoplifting, produced a decrease of occurrences for Army & Air Force Exchange Service BX/PXs of 12 percent, from 8,537 in 2005 to 7,542 in 2006.

The bad news is that while occurrences decreased, the average cost of products involved in detected cases increased AAFES-wide from $99 per incident in 2005 to $119 in 2006. This resulted in increased costs for the military community last year as the amount of merchandise went up from $848,293 in 2005 to $898,851.

With a dual mission to provide quality goods and services at competitively low prices and generate earnings to support Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) programs, AAFES, which has contributed more than $2.4 billion to military quality of life programs in the past 10 years, continues to focus efforts on reducing theft.

"Shoplifting at the exchange results in a reduced return on investment to our primary shareholders -- the entire military community," said AAFES' Director of Loss Prevention Col. Jorge Garza. "Because AAFES is a command with a mission to return earnings to MWR activities at Air Force and Army installations, shoplifting at the BX or PX, in my mind, is the same as taking money directly from the pockets of military families."

In an effort to protect the MWR dividend and reduce shoplifting incidents, AAFES Loss Prevention associates proactively identify store display areas that tend to have high theft rates. These areas include electronics, sporting goods and cosmetics which offer small, high value items. All AAFES exchanges have camera surveillance systems manned by detectives to monitor these areas, and with new DVR capability, review more than 100 hours of recording on all cameras. Most exchanges also have Electronic Article Surveillance systems that alarm when un-deactivated tags on unpaid merchandise attempt to leave the store. A highly successful partnership by major retailers has created a win-win by having most manufacturers tag merchandise at the source.

"No one likes catching shoplifters," said Garza. "In fact, a major effort by Loss Prevention is to educate the public on our capability to monitor and record suspicious activity as a tool to deter shoplifting before it ever happens. It's our hope that individuals who might be considering theft will see the security measures and think twice."

If shoplifting is suspected, AAFES Loss Prevention associates turn the issue over to military police. In addition to possible disciplinary action and/or criminal prosecution, the Federal Claims Collection Act, which began March 1, 2002, allows AAFES to enact a flat, administrative cost (Civil Recovery) of $200. There may be further fees, in addition to the Civil Recovery Program, depending on the condition of the stolen merchandise.

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