Is Wal-Mart Taking Advantage of Local Police Services?

Photo by Mike Kalasnik from Fort Mill, USA - CC BY-SA 2.0

Photo by Mike Kalasnik from Fort Mill, USA – CC BY-SA 2.0

Richard Layman pointed me at this article from the Tampa Bay Times examining the quantity of police calls to local Wal-Marts.  These Wal-Marts generate a high volume of police calls – an average of about two per hour, 24 hours a day. This is much higher than Target stores. The newspaper even accounted for square footage differentials in the analysis. Here are some excerpts:

Police come to shoo away panhandlers, referee parking disputes and check on foul-mouthed teenagers. They are called to arrest the man who drinks a 98-cent iced tea without paying and capture the customer who joyrides on a motorized shopping cart. The calls eat up hours of officers’ time. They all start at one place: Walmart.

When it comes to calling the cops, Walmart is such an outlier compared with its competitors that experts criticized the corporate giant for shifting too much of its security burden onto taxpayers. Several local law enforcement officers also emphasized that all the hours spent at Walmart cut into how often they can patrol other neighborhoods and prevent other crimes.

“Law enforcement becomes in effect a taxpayer-paid private security source for Walmart,” said New York-based leading retail analyst Burt Flickinger.

This is a long article with a ton of stats – definitely worth reading in more detail.

It raises interesting questions about the true net tax value of some of these big box stores.  Also, about people and businesses who consume a disproportionate share of public services that are supposed to be for everybody.  I occasionally see stories about some guy who has accounted for some insane number of ambulance runs or something, for example. In this case, however, it is a large, highly profitable corporation.

One interesting anecdote was that a police chief in Beech Grove, Indiana threatened to cite his local Wal-Mart for creating a public nuisance, with a $2500 fine for each shoplifting run. Police calls there fell by two-thirds in just three months.

I don’t have much comment at present, but this is an interesting story.


from Aaron M. Renn


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