18 August 2016

WalMart Doesn't Just F%$# the Taxpayer Over Welfare, Medicaid, and Foodstamps

It also deliberately avoids engaging in actions that might reduce drime so as to put the load on the local police as well:

Police chiefs and their officers on the ground say that’s just not so. Ross likes to joke that the concentration of crime at Walmart makes his job easier. “I’ve got all my bad guys in one place,” he says, flashing a bright smile. His squad’s sergeant, Robert Rohloff, a 34-year police veteran who has to worry about staffing, budgets, and patrolling the busiest commercial district in Tulsa, says there’s nothing funny about Walmart’s impact on public safety. He can’t believe, he says, that a multibillion-dollar corporation isn’t doing more to stop crime. Instead, he says, it offloads the job to the police at taxpayers’ expense. “It’s ridiculous—we are talking about the biggest retailer in the world,” says Rohloff. “I may have half my squad there for hours.”

Walmart knows police departments are frustrated. “We absolutely understand how important this is. It is important for our associates, it is important for our customers and across the communities we serve,” says Judith McKenna, Walmart’s chief operating officer for the U.S. “We can do better.”

But when? That’s what law enforcement around the country wants to know. “The constant calls from Walmart are just draining,” says Bill Ferguson, a police captain in Port Richey, Fla. “They recognize the problem and refuse to do anything about it.”

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.


Police departments inevitably compare their local Walmarts with Target stores. Target, Walmart’s largest competitor, is a different kind of retail business, with mostly smaller stores that tend to be located in somewhat more affluent neighborhoods. But there are other reasons Targets have less crime. 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.

“Target doesn’t have these problems,” says Ferguson. “Part of it may be the lower prices at Walmart or where Walmart is located, but when I walk into Target I see uniformed security or someone walking around up front. You see no one at Walmart. It just seems like an easy target.” A Target spokeswoman declined to comment on the two companies’ security policies.


Dennis Buckley found a way to get Walmart moving faster on crime: shaming and threats. A blunt former fire chief, Buckley is the mayor of Beech Grove, Ind., an Indianapolis suburb with a population of 14,000. He’d been swamped with complaints from his police chief about the daily calls to Walmart. He demanded action from Walmart’s local lawyer, as did the City Council. Nothing happened. Then, in June of last year, Buckley reached his limit. He received news that a local woman had been killed and her grandson seriously injured in a car crash caused by a Walmart shoplifter fleeing police. Later that day, he learned his town had become a laughingstock. A YouTube video of a fight at the Beech Grove Walmart was going viral. It showed two women, one riding a motorized scooter, the other accompanied by a 6-year-old boy, in a furious fistfight that turned into a profane wrestling match in the shampoo aisle. The video also contained glimpses of jeering bystanders recording the action on their phones. By the time Buckley saw the video, it had been viewed millions of times.

Enraged by the circus atmosphere around the video, he denounced Walmart on Facebook and in the local media. “The Beech Grove Walmart is NOT a good corporate partner,” he posted. The YouTube video “was embarrassing to the City of Beech Grove and the people who live in our beautiful city. Walmart should be ashamed of itself once again for failing to control the people who enter their store.”

Regional Walmart executives asked for a meeting with Buckley and Craig Wiley, the city attorney. “You could tell by their body language that they came to the meeting with a very conciliatory tone, and they were going to get their arms around the problem,” Wiley says. Walmart promised to hire security and extend a fence on the rear of its property, which barred an easy exit for shoplifters into a retirement community. It said it would skip calling the cops for first-time offenders shoplifting merchandise valued below $50 if the shoplifter completes the company’s theft-prevention program.

Buckley was pleased. But in the weeks following the meeting, Walmart dragged its heels. Buckley went public again, this time appearing on national cable news. “Walmart Beech Grove is draining our police resources,” he told Fox Business Network. “It’s the string of terrible events that have been occurring down there over the past two months that have led me to instruct our police chief to declare the Walmart a public nuisance.”

That meant the threat of a $2,500 fine for every call to the police. Walmart now pays for off-duty police to man the store, and the pressure on the local police has eased. A year later, Buckley is pleased, but it still irks him that he had to go to such measures to get Walmart to act. “Cities really need to put their thumb down and get them to the table,” he says. “It’s taken a long time, but they can really be good partners if they want to be.”
(emphasis mine)

Yet another reason to avoid the stores.

For many years their business model has been to suck the marrow out of society for profit, and I do not see this changing.

H/t Naked Capitalism.


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