AAFES' begins theft awareness program
By Staff Sgt. Benjamin Rojek, 30th Space Wing Public Affairs
/ Published June 24, 2008
VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- In an effort to decrease nationwide shoplifting trends, the Army and Air Force Exchange Service Loss Prevention Office at Vandenberg offered an awareness program for base youth June 17.
The program, which is for children 12 and under, is meant to deter children from shoplifting by showing them the state-of-the art loss prevention systems in the Base Exchange.
"This is something we're trying to do in all our stores in all of AAFES throughout the continental U.S.," said Eric Holcomb, loss prevention manager for Vandenberg AAFES. "We're trying to start this program to hit the kids before they turn the age of 12 to try to get them into the habit of not stealing."
The magic number is 12 in this case because current shoplifting trends show a high number of perpetrators in that age group, said Mr. Holcomb. While thieves can be any age, it's in the early teen to teenage years that peer pressure can play a huge role.
"They might have heard their friends talk about it and say it's cool, but it's not," said Rose Lime, Vandenberg Youth Center school-age program coordinator. The tour enabled the kids to see that shoplifting is not appropriate. It let them know what the consequences are."
In order to deter the children from falling to peer pressure and shoplifting, Mr. Holcomb joined with members from the 30th Security Forces Squadron and gave the children a tour of AAFES, to include the camera room used by the loss prevention specialists. The goal was to show the kids that there are many different measures in place to stop a potential theft.
In order to drive that point home, a mock theft was set up. The children watched the cameras as a person stole an item. Mr. Holcomb zoomed in on the individual and followed him around the store with the cameras.
"We have 360 degree pivot cameras that can read the numbers off an ID card," Mr. Holcomb said. "They were really, really attentive when it came to that stuff - kids like all that high tech stuff. I don't think they realize how high-tech these retail companies are going to."
After the demonstration, the security forces members spoke with the children, explaining the consequences of theft. Those consequences include at least $250 in fines, a ban from all AAFES facilities, and, for repeat offenders, possible time in juvenile hall.
"The kids were under the impression nothing would happen to them," Mr. Holcomb said.
After the briefing, the children were given time to ask questions. As it turned out, they had plenty of queries for the security forces Airmen. Although some questions included requests to try out the Airmen's handcuffs, there were plenty of well thought-out questions.
"One kid asked if they were with their friend, and their friend was stealing, would both of them get in trouble," Mr. Holcomb said. "If you open up your jacket to hide what your friend is doing from the cameras, then that makes you an accomplice. That's just as bad as shoplifting."
Lessons like that were important for the children to learn and make the Youth Center want to come back.
"We only had a small group go this time, so if they offered it again, we would definitely go," Ms. Lime said. "Even for the younger children, we need to let them know these things early on."
The loss prevention team here said they are ready to hold more sessions for youth across the base and want to make the program a little bigger. There are plans to work with the fire department as well as security forces and other teams.
For more information on the program, or to sign up a youth organization or class, call Mr. Holcomb as 734-5521.