Shoplifting Marines pay high price

2 Dec 2009 | Lance Cpl. Lia Gamero

Most people are looking for ways to save money especially during the holiday season. Marines are no different; that is why many ask for military discounts, go to sales or make payments on high-priced items, unfortunately some Marines are turning to another option: not paying at all.

Camp Lejeune’s Marine Corps Community Services has reported a huge increase in the number of active-duty Marines that have been caught shoplifting.

“Last year we had 67 Marines caught, so far this year we’ve caught a total of 111 Marines,” said Acie Carver, MCCS security manager for the Inspection and Security Branch of the Review and Analysis Division. “The year isn’t even over yet, so the increase has us concerned about the Marines.”

Although it is only a small portion of the community that is shoplifting, the increase raises concerns because it can ruin Marines’ careers. Dependents that are caught can end up in federal court on top of losing their shopping privileges from the exchange or commissary.

“We would rather deter the problem than actually have to catch people,” said Carver.

Every one of the MCCS stores has camera systems and televisions that are continuously monitored by a staff of 27 people. They are split among all the stores, but the majority are in the main exchange. The security cameras have the capability to zoom in to a level where the price on the price tag can be seen with the help of strategically placed mirrors, every inch of the stores is covered.

“We normally pick out a shoplifter from the moment they walk in the store,” said Carver. “They give certain characteristics. They look nervous, they try to look at our camera systems and guess the position. Some will start out by trying to palm things and they’ll keep products down, close to their pockets. Our ‘store detectives’ will spot them and follow them with the cameras throughout the entire store.”

Camp Lejeune MCCS security does not go by N.C. state law, so they do not approach a person until they have passed the register area and exited the building. In the case of the Main Exchange, the foyer, or food-court area, is where they will be approached.

“Once they enter that are, they’ve had every chance in the world to pay for that merchandise and that’s when we’ll detain them,” said Carver.

The person is taken into the security office where they will fill out processing paperwork and wait for the military police to come pick them up. MCCS security stops playing any role in the matter once the MPs have picked up the person.

At the Provost Marshal’s Office the stolen merchandise will be retrieved and video footage will be viewed if needed.

“We apprehend the Marine, advise him or her of their rights, contact the command and release them to their command,” said Master Sgt. Bernard Coe, PMO operations chief. “After that we have no more involvement, unless the command requests a copy of our report.”

It is left to each individual command to do any discipline of a Marine. It can include non-judicial punishment to court-martial depending on the extent of the crime. They may also be required to pay a $200 fine to MCCS along with the price for the item stolen.

“Marines who steal are not really Marines,” said Carver. “They’re imposters in uniform because Marines are raised with honor, and by shoplifting they show everyone that they don’t have honor.”

So before walking out the door without stopping at the register, it’s time to stop and think about what the price really is.