Thursday, May 04, 2006

Wal-Mart: A Crime Magnet

A shocking new report has been released by and it shows the tremendous impact Wal-Mart has on crime rates. The researches picked 551 Wal-Marts and requested the police records for those locations. Here’s a summary of what they found:

In 2004, at just those 551 Wal-Mart stores, police were called to respond to over 148,331 police incidents, including over 2,900 reports of serious or violent crimes:

1,145 Assaults
153 Sex Crimes
23 Kidnappings (or Attempts)
9 Rapes (or Attempts)
4 Homicides (or Attempts)

Based on this sample, nationally in 2004, we estimate police responded to nearly 1 million reported police incidents at Wal-Mart stores costing American taxpayers $77 million.
This is a topic we’ve commented on previously and believe is quite salient for site fights throughout New York. Communities are rightfully concerned that Wal-Mart will increase their crime rates and distract police departments from attending to other important matters. Making matters worse, not only is the public’s safety level decreased but the additional attention paid to the world’s largest retailer ends up costing the tax payer.

According to the report, police chiefs across the country are starting to realize that Wal-Mart is quite a burden:

In South Strabane, PA: Police Chief Don Zofchak met with Wal-Mart officials in 2004 trying to reduce their calls to the police. "Frankly, it was unbearable…. I've got 26 square miles and God knows how many other businesses to deal with. Their requests or demands for service, proportionally, were overwhelming." [Pittsburgh Post Gazette, March 27, 2005]

North Lebanon, PA: Police Chief Kim Wolfe said that, "If we had known the number of calls [from Wal-Mart], we probably would have considered an increase in officers…. We just had no idea what it would be like. It doesn't matter what time of the day or night; we get calls there." [The Lebanon Daily News, January 27, 2005]
The worst part about all of this is that Wal-Mart knew the severity of this problem – especially in its parking lots – but has done relatively little to remedy the situation. Since the mid 1990s, internal memos have constantly highlighted the crime problem and possible fixes such as roving parking lot patrols but:

From 1994 to 2000, Wal-Mart had only increased the percentage of stores having such patrols from 11 to 17 percent. (Judge J. Starcher, Concurring Opinion in Jane Doe v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc, No. 26012, December 13, 2001 and Good Morning America, August 2000.)
There's more on Wal-Mart's knowledge of the crime problem and its lackluster response here.

As Wal-Mart tries to enter into New York City and expand in places like Monsey, NY the fact that these stores are such a crime magnets will definitely be an issue that we will emphasize. While traffic and labor concerns are often the most visible, this quality of life concern will definitely resonate with those who value neighborhood security and will resent that publicly-funded police departments are being overwhelmed by one store.