When I began reading the article on crime at Walmart, the first thing that came to mind was the term ‘going postal.’
I mean, didn’t someone finally figure out that the reason there were so many workplace murders involving postal workers was because there are so many postal workers?
So I was thinking, of course there’s more crime at Walmart. Therere are more stores, more shoppers, more everything at Wallies. It would stand to reason, then, that there are more crimes associated with the vast emporium of our nightmares. (Mine at least.)
But not so fast.
Turns out the that the situation is more like Walmart’s being able to get away with crappy pay and benefits by letting the taxpayers pick up the difference between what a worker can eke out there vs. what they need to live on. (For the record, I’m all in favor of helping the “working poor” make up the difference between what they make and what they need. But there does seem to be something wrong when Walmart hauls in billions in profits on the backs of the poor – and the poor taxpayer.) Why pay for security when the local PD’s will handle it for you?
Here’s the story:
In Tulsa, there’s an officer who operates out of the security office at one of the city’s Walmarts. Over the past five years, the police van – I guess we can no longer say paddy wagon – has made over 5,000 trips to the store to pick up shoplifters, as well as for more serous crimes: “including five armed robberies so far this year, a murder suspect who killed himself with a gunshot to the head in the parking lot last year, and, in 2014, a group of men who got into a parking lot shootout that killed one and seriously injured two others.” (Source: Bloomberg)
The demands placed on Tulsa PD by four Walmarts resulted in more than six times the calls from Walmart than from the city’s four Targets.
And it’s not just Tulsa:
More than 200 violent crimes, including attempted kidnappings and multiple stabbings, shootings, and murders, have occurred at the nation’s 4,500 Walmarts this year, or about one a day, according to an analysis of media reports.
Then there was the meth lab that cops found in a Walmart parking lot drainage pipe in upstate New York…
It’s pretty clear cops should be jumping in when it there are shootouts in its parking lots, people getting stabbed and kidnapped. And when meth labs are open for business, well, if that lab blows, Attention Shoppers. That said, stores do have a legal obligation to protect shoppers from crimes that the store might reasonable have known could happen.
But some of these crimes are occurring due to Walmart negligence. And tying up police forces to handle shoplifters on the recurring basis it seems to be recurring on? Not that I have any reason to know this personally, but didn’t store security just take shoplifters aside and scare the crap out of them? (Which reminds me of a story that we were told in grammar school by one of our more imaginative nuns. Some kids must have been picked up shoplifting gimcrack at the local Woolworth’s. Anyway, Sister Saint Whatever, having told us that our record would follow us throughout our lives, let us know that in Woolworth’s, there were “midgets with cameras in baby buggies” shooting pictures of shoplifters. So we were bound to get caught. Plus, we were also warned about ‘shoplifting in uniform’, which would cause scandal, because Protestants would see us shoplifting and judge the entire Holy Roman Catholic Church on our behavior. I actually didn’t know anyone who ever stole from Woolworth’s, or Zayre’s, the other cheesy store in our neighborhood mall, Webster Square Plaza. But the nuns were all over it.)
Back to our friends at Walmart:
There’s nothing inevitable about the level of crime at Walmart. It’s the direct, if unintended, result of corporate policy. Beginning as far back as 2000, when former CEO Lee Scott took over, an aggressive cost-cutting crusade led many stores to deteriorate. The famed greeters were removed, taking away a deterrent to theft at the porous entrances and exits. Self-checkout scanners replaced many cashiers. Walmart added stores faster than it hired employees. The company has one worker for every 524 square feet of retail space, a 19 percent increase in space per employee from a decade ago.
In terms of profit, all this has worked: Sales per employee in the U.S. have grown 23 percent in the past decade, to $236,804. For criminals, however, the cutbacks were like sending out a message that no one at Walmart cared, no one was watching, and no one was likely to catch you.
And it’s not making local police departments very happy.
They like the way they do things at Target a lot better.
Sure, Targets tend to be in wealthier neighborhoods. And,
Unlike most Walmarts, they’re not open 24 hours a day. Nor do they allow people to camp overnight in their parking lots, as Walmarts do. Like Walmart, Target relies heavily on video surveillance, but it employs sophisticated software that can alert the store security office when shoppers spend too much time in front of merchandise or linger for long periods outside after closing time. The biggest difference, police say, is simply that Targets have more staff visible in stores.
Ditto for shopping centers, which also have less crime.
Walmart is supposedly becoming more security conscious, but maybe not so aggressively, given that it could mean loss in profit.
Why am I not surprised?