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KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — ’Tis the season for shopping — and shoplifting.

But just like Santa, who keeps an eye on naughty boys and girls, the 18th Security Forces Squadron here is keeping an extra eye out for persons who prefer to pilfer instead of purchase.

Besides regular patrols of the base’s Army and Air Force Exchange Service, squadron members are volunteering their time this holiday season to beef up the police presence inside the store.

“We’re beginning the holiday on the right foot — prevention — by putting the word out there that when someone steals … they’re robbing all of us,” said Capt. Russell Waight, the squadron’s operations officer.

He said through news releases and American Forces Network radio and television commercials the squadron is warning that the crime is taken seriously.

“Shoplifting affects sales, the money AAFES puts back into the community and our ability to complete the mission,” he said. “Even if it involves a dependent, it will take a servicemember away from his job.”

Noting that the Kadena exchange lost $1,500 per month last year due to shoplifting, Waight said the unit concluded that “making the public aware of what happens to them if they are caught shoplifting could be a deterrent.”

He said 56 people — 82 percent of them dependents — were arrested for shoplifting in 2005. So far this year, 78 people have been caught, 67 percent of them dependents.

Pacificwide, 835 people were accused of shoplifting in AAFES stores in 2005, accounting for $154,860 of merchandise. Waight said the most commonly stolen items are easy to conceal: CDs, DVDs and cosmetics.

On average, a servicemember convicted of shoplifting on Kadena received 30 days extra duty, reduction in rank, a reprimand and forfeiture of pay. Dependents have received letters of warning and restrictions from all AAFES facilities on Okinawa, Waight said.

In more serious cases, dependents could be barred from all U.S. bases on Okinawa or forced to return to the United States.

Waight added that a shoplifting conviction also can affect a servicemember’s chances for promotion and could result in an early separation with a felony conviction on his or her record.

Also, AAFES has a civil recovery charge program that involves a $200 fee for each person convicted — meaning the theft of a $1 can of soda could cost the shoplifter $201.

Waight also is asking anyone who witnesses shoplifting to alert store personnel or call the squadron’s special crime-stoppers number at 634-COPS.

“We want people to remember that shoplifting costs all of us,” Waight said.

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