Making Change at Walmart, the national labor organization supported by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, announced the launch of a multimedia campaign (including TV spots) to bring attention to shoplifting and other petty crimes at Wal-Mart stores, calling the level of police resources required to deal with criminal activity “troubling.”
Law enforcement logged some 16,800 calls — two calls per hour, every hour, every day for one year — to Wal-Mart stores in four Florida counties, according to a Tampa Bay Times analysis cited by Making Change at Walmart. The group also referenced Bloomberg News data that found police were called to one of Tulsa’s four Wal-Mart stores just under 2,000 times in a year, compared to about 300 calls to all of the city’s four Target stores.
Wal-Mart says it’s taking the issue seriously, shifting more employees and security monitors to sales floors, store doors, and self-checkout areas to combat shoplifting and fraudulent returns, according to Bloomberg.
The TV spots and local press events unveiled by Making Change at Walmart, which has also long advocated for better wages and working conditions at the retailer, will run first in Tampa, Tulsa, St. Paul and Dallas. (Last year police responded to two Twin Cities-area Wal-Mart locations 1,126 times, and across five Texas cities last year, there were a combined 6,077 police calls to Wal-Mart stores.)
“Wal-Mart must stop asking local police departments to do their job, and taxpayers to subsidize its security,” Making Change at Walmart campaign director Randy Parraz said in a statement. “This is not an issue of whether Wal-Mart can do more, it is about why they are putting profits ahead of the community. The simple solution is for Wal-Mart to do what is right and invest more in under-staffed stores and security.”
The group cited an August investigation by Bloomberg Businessweek that found, in addition to shoplifting, more than 200 violent crimes (including attempted kidnappings, stabbings, shootings and murders) at U.S. Wal-Mart stores during the first eight months of 2016, or about one per day. "It’s ridiculous—we are talking about the biggest retailer in the world,” Tulsa police officer Robert Rohloff told Bloomberg Businessweek. “I may have half my squad there for hours.”
Wal-Mart says it is dedicating people and technology to combat the problem. This summer, the retailer quietly launched Restorative Justice, an experimental program to fight crime in stores and reduce reliance on local law enforcement. Restorative Justice offers some accused shoplifters the option to pay an undisclosed sum to complete an online remedial program, thereby avoiding jail time. Wal-Mart said it aims to reduce the number of police coming to its stores and "hopefully [give] people a second chance."
After ending its longstanding store greeter tradition in 2012, Wal-Mart brought them back to most of its U.S. stores this year in an effort to make those locations more customer-friendly and theft-proof. Thieves are responsible for about $300 million in Wal-Mart product loss each tear.