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People caught shoplifting at the Combat Center's Marine Corps Exchange can expect a $200 fine on top of the price of whatever they steal.

Photo by Lance Cpl. M.C. Nerl

MCX stops thieves in their tracks

30 Jan 2009 | Lance Cpl. M.C. Nerl

The Combat Center’s Marine Corps Exchange, in response to the actions of both service members and civilians who have made the decision to shoplift, has stepped up its security measures to cut down and deter criminal behavior.

Walter E. Edwards, the asset protection manager for Marine Corps Community Services, said MCCS recently purchased a new surveillance system. Along with other programs in place, such as Eyes Wide Open, they are hoping to cut down on thievery.

“We have a new camera system. It’s very sophisticated and much more useful than the old one,” the New Orleans native said. “We have a multitude of cameras inside of the PX [MCX]. There are very few things going on that I can’t see. It’s almost like I can see you from the front gate to Camp Wilson.”

Edwards added the system is a huge improvement over the old one, and it is much easier to operate.

“We have more capabilities with the new system. It is far superior to our old one,” Edwards said. “You can view all the cameras on two massive screens. We have controls for our operators to control individually each camera and follow suspicious people. It’s a lot easier to view footage now because it is all digital, as opposed to before when everything was on a little screen and on video tapes.”

Edwards added thievery here is lower than the national average, which he learned from the National Retail Security Survey.

“We may be below the national average, but the punishments Marines receive are much more severe than those given to civilians,” he said. “It is up to their units to deliver a sentence of non-judicial punishment to them or not, but every time you are caught stealing there’s the $200 charge from MCCS that comes with the price of what you steal, if it is damaged or taken out of the box even, which we consider damaging. The charge comes whether it is a candy bar or an Xbox you’re stealing.”

Edwards elaborated on penalties for dependants and civilians versus those of Marines.

“There is the $200 due to damaged items given to anyone who is caught here,” he said. “MCCS always puts the fine along with the cost of a damaged object on whoever steals. Marines may receive harsher punishments from their units on top of the charge they receive from MCCS. Civilians can be retained by security and turned over to the sheriff out in town from there.”

Patrick J. Rooney, the head of retail for MCCS, said among other security measures, all the employees at the MCX are taught how to spot shoplifters in the Eyes Wide Open program.

“Eyes Wide Open is a program to help educate all the sales people and others on what to look for and how to prevent theft,” said Rooney, a Brooklyn, N.Y., native. “We all know the customer service we provide here is one of the biggest deterrents possible to shoplifting. When you are in the store, there are always people trying to help you, walking around, and keeping an eye out.”

Edwards said he believes someone who is caught stealing is not a bad person; it is simply a poor choice they made at the time.

Regardless of the circumstances leading up to that poor choice, potential shoplifters on base now have another reason to think twice before slipping a hot item into their pocket.

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