retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Tampa Bay Tribune has a long and detailed investigative report charging that Walmart stores in that area essentially use local police forces to provide store security, an approach that costs taxpayers money and eliminates the amount of time that police can spend on crime prevention and other law enforcement activities.

An excerpt:

"Law enforcement logged nearly 16,800 calls in one year to Walmarts in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties, according to a Tampa Bay Times analysis. That’s two calls an hour, every hour, every day.

"Local Walmarts, on average, generated four times as many calls as nearby Targets, the Times found. Many individual supercenters attracted more calls than the much larger WestShore Plaza mall.

"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."

According to the story, "Walmart said it is doing what it must to thwart thieves and protect its merchandise. Spokesman Aaron Mullins said the company’s specialists do 'a really great job of identifying people who are breaking the law' and they 'partner very closely with local law enforcement.'

“'Any type of criminal activity that might be happening in our stores we take very seriously,' he said, 'and we have processes in place to address that aggressively'."

You can read the entire story here.
KC's View:
This is a fascinating story, and I encourage you to read it ... if I were either a competitor to Walmart or a taxpayer bearing the brunt of this, I think I'd be a little upset.

But, as the story points out, it results from a take-no-prisoners approach by Walmart to any and all legal infractions at its stores, and if someone breaks the law, well, who ya' gonna call? After all, Walmart is paying taxes, too ... and if someone breaks the law on its property, there are no other options. (Imagine the stories if they took the lawbreakers out back and just beat them up...)

Maybe what this really suggests is that communities have to take a different public policy approach to how they provide law enforcement services to private companies. Not sure what it is, but I suppose that one thing they could do is require retailers of a certain size to install and pay for a small police substation on the property, with them taking on the financial burden for the cops who staff it.