Don’t store government equipment in cars

by Tech. Sgt. Chad Thompson
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

It’s an all-too-common occurrence in any part of the world — that sick feeling you get when you are walking up to your car and see a pile of glass around it. Someone has smashed your window and stolen your valuables – but could you have avoided being a target?

The KMC Crime Watch program, which started Jan. 1, has been used to track trends in crimes being committed in the community, such as larcenies, vandalism and assaults, with the main focus on trying to reduce vehicle break-ins.

Master Sgt. Scott Vermeire, 86th Security Forces Squadron intelligence flight superintendent, heads up the program and said one of the biggest issues here is people leaving their car doors unlocked.

“There were 31 larcenies in the month of March, with 22 of those being…vehicle break-ins,” Vermeire said. “More than 80 percent of those reported occurred due to a vehicle being unlocked.”

Of those, he said 14 of the vehicle break-ins had government items stolen out of them. Anything from cell phones and laptops to gas masks and other professional gear; thousands of dollars of government equipment has been stolen out of cars.

Some tips to use to avoid being a “soft” target are:

• Lock your car. It might sound simple but people often leave their cars unlocked even on base. Make a habit to lock your car at all times.

• Park near other cars and use parking garages when possible. Some people would think parking away from vehicles would be safe — it might keep you from a ding or two but
being away from other cars also makes it a target to criminals. Parking in a garage is safer than parking on the street.

• Never hide spare keys in or around the car. Experienced thieves know all the hiding places. If your vehicle is parked outside your house and there is a spare key in it, a good thief just got access to your home.

• Don’t make your vehicles stand out as being an American car. Remove all your local team stickers and anything that really stands out as being a foreigner. The less someone thinks there may be something hiding, the better the chances the thief will walk right by.

• Don’t leave things in plain sight. Lock items in the glove box or put them in the trunk. If it’s not visible it is less likely to draw attention. It’s also advised to never leave anything in the vehicle overnight or for extended periods.

Even if someone takes the appropriate measures, there is still a possibility of being a quick-handed thief’s victim, but be aware that if government equipment is involved, the local judge advocate office will be called.

“In most cases involving personal property, you would file a report for the lost items with your insurance company and hopefully get reimbursed by your car insurance,” said Richard Desmond, 86th Airlift Wing judge advocate office.

“However, in the case of government-issued equipment, a report of survey is required to determine whether the loss of the government equipment was due to the military member’s own negligence or intentional misconduct.”

When a member reports the loss of government equipment, the unit maintaining the equipment initiates the ROS, he added.

An investigation into how the government equipment was lost is also initiated.

When it comes to professional gear everyone should know they are responsible for items even if they are lost or stolen.
“Everyone needs to know they can be held financially liable for lost or damaged government-issued items if a ROS investigation determines their negligence was the cause for the loss or damage,” Desmond said. “Financial liability can include up to one month’s pay.”

An example of negligence is if someone knowingly stores government equipment in plain sight in a vehicle and the item gets stolen, he explained. Also, deliberate misuse of government property could be just as costly to an Airman.

“A report of survey will be conducted by an investigating officer who is appointed by the unit commander, and even in the case of someone being found negligent there is always the opportunity to appeal the determination of financial liability,” Desmond said.

“It’s a case-by-case basis whether someone was negligent or not, and the facts of each case are critical,” he said. “If someone had his government equipment in the trunk of his car, it might be deemed he was not at fault — in order to prove negligence there are a lot of variables that must be weighed.”

So keep these things in mind when traveling with any government equipment; the item was entrusted to you for
safekeeping and proper use.

You could be held financially responsible for it if it is lost, damaged or stolen.

For more information on KMC Crime Watch, call 480-7071.