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Shoplifting cases at the Post Exchange on Camp Zama, Japan, fell from 28 to seven in 2005, a 75 percent drop from the previous year, the Army and Air Force Exchange Service stated in a recent news release.

Those seven persons tried to shoplift on average some $69 in merchandise, officials said, meaning that AAFES avoided a potential estimated loss of $1,458 in merchandise over the previous year. But the organization says it’s striving to further eradicate customers’ temptation to steal.

“Store detectives (and) loss-prevention managers work hard at protecting AAFES assets by identifying, detaining and processing shoplifters,” said George Shaffer, area loss-prevention manager for AAES in Japan and Okinawa. “If you’re out there thinking about shoplifting from the Post Exchange, and think you won’t get caught, think again; you will and it’s just not worth it.”

He declined to say how many incidents have surfaced so far this year at Zama.

Electronics, sporting goods and cosmetics are among the hottest items being lifted, the release stated.

AAFES has safeguards in place to discourage shoplifting, ranging from video surveillance equipment to store detectives who mingle with customers. Most exchanges also use surveillance system tags on electronic articles that trigger an alarm when people attempt to take items from the store without paying.

“Many of AAFES’ loss-prevention tools are designed to deter shoplifting before it even happens,” Dwight Marcus, the Camp Zama Exchange’s general manager, said in the release. “It’s our hope that individuals who might be considering theft will see the security measures and think twice.”

Shaffer said AAFES doesn’t normally make exceptions for any cases of misunderstanding, in which people unknowingly or accidentally walk out with items. Loss-prevention associates detain all shoplifting suspects and notify military police, he added.

“We don’t make the decision if customers made a mistake or unknowingly walked out with unpaid items,” Shaffer said.

Active-duty servicemembers usually are processed through military legal channels, he said, with disciplinary action often left to a commander’s discretion. Civilians and dependents charged with shoplifting are referred to the Camp Zama Disciplinary Board.

Punishment may include suspension of AAFES privileges, assignment to do community-service work and loss of job opportunities, scholarships and military academy appointments. In some instances, repeat offenders face banishment from base and an early return to the United States.

In addition, AAFES charges shoplifters and accomplices a $200 fee through the Federal Claims Collection Act, a civil recovery program that lets retailers offset merchandise losses and added security costs. The law, enacted March 1, 2002, doesn’t require a criminal conviction.

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