Activists Emphasize Walmart’s Crime Problem In TV Ads Airing In 4 Cities

Image courtesy of MCAW

A number of Walmart stores around the country have been called out for being the epicenters of disproportionate levels of criminal activity and calls to the police. Now a union-backed labor advocacy group is using this information against the nation’s largest retailer in an TV ad campaign highlighting Walmart’s alleged high crime rates — and its cost to local taxpayers.

The TV ads——created by Making Change at Walmart, a project of the United Food and Commercial Workers union——will run in four metro areas, including Tampa, where the local newspaper analyzed police visits to discount stores and found that the cops were dispatched to Walmart four times as often as Target. Another city where the ads will air is Tulsa, where Bloomberg Businessweek profiled the man called “Officer Walmart,” who spends his entire work day inside a Walmart store dealing with crime there.

Viewers in the Minneapolis-St. Paul and Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan areas will also see the TV spots. In case you’re curious, here’s the Tulsa version of the ad, which UFCW helpfully posted on YouTube.

According to Bloomberg, before putting out the ads, the group visited with city officials to make their case, hoping that local governments might declare Walmart a “public nuisance” over the number of police visits. In twenty more cities, the group will distribute informational flyers with the same information.

While Walmart has cut down on police calls to its store overall in the last year or so, critics of the company, which include labor groups but also employees and local cops, accuse the profitable retail behemoth of cutting in-store security and offloading the work on local police at taxpayer expense.

Consumerist reached out to Walmart for comment on the MCAW ad campaign, but have not yet received a response. Update: we received a statement, which is at the bottom of this post. However, the retailer did tell Bloomberg that it has been investing in store security, including off-duty officers in stores working security, and a program for first-time shoplifting offenders that keeps suspects from being arrested.

“The importance of this issue is recognized at the highest levels of the company, and we are investing in people and technology,” a Walmart spokesman told Consumerist.

Yet Walmart remains a magnet for colorful and scary crimes, like the recent shoplifting suspects who attacked a store greeter with a stun gun when he asked for their receipt for a large television, and the disgruntled employee who returned to work to kill her co-workers, but who wasn’t able to load her rifle.

Does so much of our crime end up at Walmart because so much of our shopping now happens there? Would more store security that’s not taxpayer-funded and having more employees visible in each store in general deter some of this crime? Making Change at Walmart believes so.

“This is not an issue of whether Walmart can do more, it is about why they are putting profits ahead of the community,” MCAW campaign director Randy Parraz said in a statement. “The simple solution is for Walmart to do what is right and invest more in under-staffed stores and security.”

Here’s Walmart’s statement in response to the commercials from Making Change at Walmart:

We recognize the importance of this issue at the highest levels of the company, and we are investing in people and technology to support our stores. We’re encouraged by a 35% reduction in calls to law enforcement agencies nationwide, on average, since we began implementing crime deterrence programs like Restorative Justice and More at the Door. We’ll continue our outreach to law enforcement across the country as part of our ongoing commitment to meet our customers’ and associates’ expectations of a safe and enjoyable shopping experience.