Minnesota Cities Claim Walmart Is Using Local Police As Unpaid Security Guards

Image courtesy of Alan Rappa

Across the country, local governments are speaking out about how their police departments are subsidizing security at their local Walmart stores, with officers dispatched there more often than competing discount and grocery stores. Now state legislators from two cities in Minnesota say that they’re working on possible solutions to the issue.

The issue is at the forefront right now because Making Change at Walmart, a non-union group that’s backed by the United Food and Commercial Workers union, is airing TV ads condemning Walmart’s reliance on the police in cities across the country, including the Twin Cities media market in Minnesota.

The Walmarts in the city of St. Paul, for example, made 2,129 calls to local police in the last year. Just in the Twin Cities metropolitan area, police visits to Walmart stores alone cost an estimated $3 million per year.

“A lot of times when Walmart comes into the cities, they ask for tax breaks, they ask for other incentives so that they can build there, and their thing is, ‘Well, we can provide jobs,'” State Rep. Mike Nelson of Brooklyn Park told City Pages. The problem with that, Nelson says: those have historically not been good jobs, and Walmart stores get tax concessions while using more government resources than its competition.

Walmart, for its part, claims to be working on the problem on its own, finding solutions other than calling the cops for petty crimes and restoring greeters to the entrances of its stores, a program that the chain calls “More at the Door.”

In a statement to Consumerist, a Walmart spokesman told us that the company is “investing in people and technology” to improve store security.

“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,” the company told us.