Legislators from Minnesota's Twin Cities region are on record stating that Wal-Mart Stores is hurting the community's bottom line by overrelying on local law enforcement to deal with rising crime, according to local weekly City Pages.
In the past year alone, St. Paul's Wal-Mart store made 2,129 calls to police, followed by the Bloomington, MN store at 1,250, the Brooklyn Center store at 1,099, and the Brooklyn Park store at 480. Officials estimate the total cost to those towns at over $3 million.
Meanwhile, the Oklahoma AFL-CIO says it's giving its dubious 2016 “Shoplifting Magnet of the Year” award to Wal-Mart's supercenter in Oklahoma City, noting that law enforcement has been called to that store more than 1,700 times this year, The Oklahoman reports.
Similar reports are coming out of other areas, including Tampa, FL, apparently inspired by an August investigation by Bloomberg Businessweek into the escalating crime problem at Wal-Mart Stores nationwide. In addition to shoplifting, there were 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 — about one per day.
Wal-Mart says it’s taking the crime issue seriously, shifting more employees and security monitors to sales floors, store doors and self-checkout areas to combat shoplifting and fraudulent returns. But the story of its struggles to combat violent crime is gaining traction as more local newspapers, lawmakers and law enforcement agencies pick it up.
Making Change at Walmart, the national labor organization supported by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, earlier this month announced the launch of a multimedia campaign (including TV spots) to bring attention to shoplifting and other petty crimes at Wal-Mart stores.
“A lot of times when Wal-Mart 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,’” Rep. Mike Nelson, a legislator in Brooklyn Park, MN, told City Pages. “Well, they’re not providing that many jobs, they’re not providing well-paying jobs, and then they’re dumping their security problems back on the city resources.”
This summer, Wal-Mart 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.” In addition, 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 losses each year.
But Wal-Mart could find itself under increased pressure to further boost its security and store personnel and to boost their wages, something that could add to its escalating labor costs.