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Shoplifting, resulting costs to military community up in ‘07

DALLAS -- Despite upgraded camera systems with DVR capability, educational campaigns focused on the consequences of stealing and a 2002 amendment allowing federal retailers to pursue losses and administrative costs related to shoplifting, theft at base exchanges and post exchanges rose last year, from 7,542 incidents in 2006 to 7,635 in 2007.

While occurrences were up barely one percent, the average cost of products in detected cases went up AAFES-wide more than 8 percent, from $119 per incident in 2006 to $129 in 2007. Shoplifters focusing on designer purses and perfumes, name brand electronics and other high-end items created increased costs for the military community as the amount of merchandise involved went up nearly 10 percent, from $898,851 in 2006 to $985,244.

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

"Shoplifting at the exchange results in a reduced return on investment to our primary shareholders -- the military community," said AAFES' Vice President of Loss Prevention Gerald Danish. "Because AAFES is a command with a mission to return earnings to MWR activities, shoplifting at the BX or PX is essentially the same as taking money directly from the pockets of the military families exchanges serve."

In an effort to protect the MWR dividend AAFES provides annually and further reduce shoplifting incidents, loss prevention associates are stepping up education efforts to help highlight the cost and perils of stealing through local anti-shoplifting campaigns. AAFES is also testing intelligent video analysis solutions that are expected to further reduce losses. Capable of alerting personnel to crucial incidents as they happen, the new systems will allow store personnel to intervene before merchandise even leaves the store. In addition to these measures, the AAFES loss prevention team continues to proactively identify store display areas that tend to have high theft rates.

"No one likes catching shoplifters," said Mr. Danish. "In fact, one of our major objectives is to deter shoplifting before it ever happens by educating shoppers of all ages on the exchanges' ability to monitor and record activity throughout the store. It's our hope that individuals who might be considering theft will see the security measures, think twice and make the right decision for their family and career."

If shoplifting is suspected, AAFES Loss Prevention associates turn the issue over to local law enforcement. 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.