9 Things We Learned About Walmart’s Relationships With Local Police

Image courtesy of Daniel Oines

Walmart just shared its quarterly results with investors and with the world, and its sales and profits are up. Great news! Only a lot of the chain’s profits have come because of aggressive cost-cutting, and its cutbacks in security have meant increases in petty and violent crimes that can be a burden on local law enforcement.

Bloomberg Businessweek took a national look at Walcrime this week, and here’s some of what we learned. Be sure to check out the whole story, too.

  1. In Tulsa, OK, police officer Darrell Ross is called Officer Walmart, because that’s his job: he’s stationed at Walmart, and meets with shoplifters and other criminals. There’s also an off-duty officer working for Walmart directly.
  2. The Tulsa police have sometimes needed to send a van to Walmart to bring in everyone who was arrested that day.
  3. Tulsa’s numbers are even worse than the stats from Florida that the Tampa Bay Times compiled earlier this year: the city has four Walmarts that called police a total of 2,000 times, and four Targets that called police 300 times.
  4. That can be an unfair comparison, though: Target does not allow people to park overnight in its lots, and its store are generally smaller and in wealthier areas than their competing Walmarts.
  5. “When I walk into Target I see uniformed security or someone walking around up front, a Florida police chief told Businessweek. “You see no one at Walmart. It just seems like an easy target.” Pun probably not intended.
  6. Walmart has made cutting back on crime in its stores a priority in the last year, because shootouts and meth labs are bad for business. It’s succeeding, including a program to reform shoplifters instead of calling in the police.
  7. The roots of Walmart’s crime problem are in cost-cutting, which shouldn’t surprise anyone who has shopped there in the last decade and a half or so. Cutbacks at the turn of the century meant that Walmart stores are now getting by with fewer employees, and the simple change of getting rid of greeters increased shoplifting.
  8. Walmart’s board mostly doesn’t come from the retail business, and may not understand the importance of paying for security so customers will feel safe and spend more time shopping.
  9. When a fight in his local Walmart was recorded on YouTube and went viral, that was the last in a string of incidents that led a mayor in Indiana to crack down on Walmart, making media appearances to call the company out and eventually having the store declared a public nuisance. That meant possible fines of $2,500 for every call to the police. The store realized it would be cheaper to hire off-duty officers to work security, and did.

Walmart’s Out-of-Control Crime Problem Is Driving Police Crazy [Bloomberg Businessweek]

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.