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Lock it or lose it

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, GERMANY -- An increasing number of Sabers are becoming victims of larceny, the wrongful taking of another's personal goods without authorization, a statistic which is gaining the attention of base leadership.

The number of reports of larceny jumped substantially to from three last May to 16 this May, a statistic that has leadership concerned.

"We are very concerned because there is a significant rise in thefts from Bitburg High School locker rooms, from vehicles on and off base and houses, it is happening to much," said Col. Darryl Roberson, 52nd Fighter Wing commander. "MP3 players, items left in unlocked cars, computers, etc. are all being taken. It is important for everyone to exercise personal security by locking your cars, securing your bags and not leaving items out in the open."

When the evidence shows that an Airman committed larceny they are most likely to be charged under Article 121 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

The possible actions for a violation of Article 121 can range from a letter of reprimand to an Article 15 or court martial, said Capt. Shandra Kotzun, 52nd Fighter Wing Judge Advocate's Office chief of military justice. The action taken and punishments are determined on a case-by-case basis, considering the situation and the value of the items involved. The Airman's commander works with the legal office to determine how to handle the incident and has the final say in what action will be taken.

Military dependents who commit larceny are also held accountable for their actions even though they cannot be prosecuted under the military justice system.

If a dependent is caught, people should contact Security Forces, which will contact the Polizei because they have the authority to prosecute the individual even if the incident occurs on base, Capt. Kotzun said. There is no juvenile court system in the military, but they do not get off completely. All dependents, adults and minors caught committing larceny acts go before a Dependent Misconduct Hearing chaired by the 52nd Mission Support Group vice-commander who can impose punishments such as community service, bar the offender from a facility or even bar them from the base.

Of the 16 incidents that occurred during May, six took place on base, one occurred in government-leased housing, seven off base and the locations of two are unknown.
"I have noticed an increase in theft from vehicles," Captain Kotzun said. "It is required by German law that you lock your car. If you don't you, are breaking the law, which can cause your insurance rates to increase even if you are the victim of the crime."

In addition, when the base is in Force Protection Condition Bravo, personnel are required to lock their parked vehicles.

There are a few simple actions that can be taken to minimize the risk of becoming a larceny victim.

A majority of reported incidents involve unsecured items in vehicles, said Amber Christiansen, 52nd Security Forces Squadron chief of reports and analysis. Eight of the larceny cases during May would have likely been avoided if people locked their doors or removed their valuables from view when unattended. The most targeted items are global positioning systems and chemical warfare bags.

Victims of larceny should do a thorough check of the area and make of list of all stolen items, then contact security forces and the Polizei to file a report, Ms. Christiansen said.

Individuals who have renter's or home owner's insurance might be entitled to a
reimbursement, however they need to have the proper reports filed, Captain Kotzun said.
Colonel Roberson would like to remind Sabers that stealing is unacceptable.

"'Integrity first' is our first core value," Colonel Roberson said. "Stealing is not in line with our core values, especially for our servicemembers but also for our dependents. It is disappointing to know that some of our children are not learning important values from their parents.

"Stealing here in Germany is like stealing from our brother," Colonel Roberson said. "We are an Air Force family and we need to take care of each other. Be a good wingman and don't be tempted to steal from your fellow Airmen. Also, help everyone out by securing your bags, cars and houses."