YET MORE OF WALMART’S CORPORATE WELFARE…

walmart tampa 160512 [Update at 0800 on 15 May: If Walmart security had had the presence of mind (or the equipment and training to photograph this woman, the end of the story might be better for Walmart.] We've written much here at The Writing On The Wal about how the Bentonvile Behemoth sucks at the public tit, draining tax dollars into the corporate coffers and saving the company millions in expenses that would have otherwise damaged the bottom line. (Others, naturally, like Tim Worstall who I mentioned last week, argue the opposite.) We've written only occasionally, however, about how Walmart farms out store security to local police departments. The Tampa Bay Times yesterday published a report on just how much time and money local Walmarts are costing tax payers. In Police Are Called To Walmart More Than Anywhere Else; You Foot The Bill Zachary Sampson, Laura Morel and Eli Murray write:
Police come to shoo away panhandlers, referee parking disputes and check on foul-mouthed teenagers. They are called to arrest the man who drinks a 98-cent iced tea without paying and capture the customer who joyrides on a motorized shopping cart. The calls eat up hours of officers’ time. They all start at one place: Walmart. 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. “They’re a huge problem in terms of the amount of time that’s spent there,” said Tampa police Officer James Smith, who specializes in retail crime. “We are, as a department, at the mercy of what they want to do.”
Police, facing budget cuts, are fighting back.
Some overworked agencies have demanded that Walmart make changes. The police chief in Beech Grove, Ind., once deemed the local Walmart a nuisance and threatened it with fines of up to $2,500 for every small shoplifting call. About three months later, calls had fallen by almost two-thirds. [Emphasis mine, JH] “At what point do you say, this one individual is taking enough resources that it is interfering with other functions?” said Seth Stoughton, a University of South Carolina law professor and former Tallahassee police officer. “There are other jobs that we could be doing, and we need to change the way that we respond.” In Port Richey, population 2,700, the department’s handful of patrol officers fielded more than 450 calls in a year from the one Walmart in its jurisdiction, nearly three times as many as their next busiest commercial location, a WaWa gas station. Those calls led to about 200 arrests. In August, a Walmart employee called the department after a 33-year-old man stole a $6.39 electric toothbrush. The officer arrived in three minutes, talked to a Walmart employee, arrested the man, and then made the 19-mile trip to the Land O’Lakes jail. After finishing the paperwork, the officer was free to take another call. Total elapsed time: 2 ½ hours. Port Richey Assistant Chief William Ferguson calculated that the arrests chewed up nearly 500 hours of officer time, at a department that sometimes has only two officers on patrol. That doesn’t include all the other calls that didn’t lead to arrests.
Maybe if Walmart stopped making all those tax-deductible donations and channeled the funds toward making stores less dependent upon tax-payer funded security, the police could focus on serious crime instead of fiddling time away over $3 thefts. Jeff Hess: Have Coffee Will Write.

12 Responses to “YET MORE OF WALMART’S CORPORATE WELFARE…”

  1. UncleBob says:

    The premise here is ridiculous.

    If individuals are committing crimes on Walmart property, what would you propose they do as an alternative?

  2. Jeff Hess says:

    Bob,

    No more ridiculous than a judge declaring a bar a public nuisance when police spend inordinate amounts of time answering disturbance calls at the establishment and in the immediate vicinity.

    The term used to be operating a disorderly house. If your business attracts an unusual amount of crime, then you are a blight on the neighborhood.

    In addition, I think that one of the key points, as mentioned in the story, is that police were being summoned to deal with minor infractions such as petty shoplifting when they could be on the streets dealing with serious crimes. That is a gross waste of our tax dollars.

    How would you react if police were summoned to a house because a child refused to clean their room?

    Jeff

  3. UncleBob says:

    A child refusing to clean their room is not a crime.

    Someone stealing someone else’s private property *is* a crime. Should Walmart just allow folks to come in and take small items whenever those folks please, with no legal recourse?

    Should folks be allowed in your house and be allowed to take small items?

    • Jeff Hess says:

      Bob,

      Clearly you did not grow up in my household.

      More to the point, however, do you want your scarce tax dollars paying for Walmart’s in-store security (a cost the company could easily pay for) or would you rather those tax dollars pay for police to catch murderers, rapists and burglars threatening your home and your family?

      Go back and read the bit about how when:

      The police chief in Beech Grove, Ind., once deemed the local Walmart a nuisance and threatened it with fines of up to $2,500 for every small shoplifting call. About three months later, calls had fallen by almost two-thirds.

      Walmart did the math and decided that when the company could no longer get a free ride, the shift made dealing with minor infractions internally made greater economic sense.

      Walmart is entitled to the same police services as any other good citizen of the community. The superstore, however, is not entitled to monopolize those services to the degree that the health and safety of other residents is compromised or threatened.

      The situation is similar to that in many major cities where residents are charged for non-emergency transportation to hospitals when no life-threatening condition exists. EMTs are not paid to be taxi drivers and police officer are not paid to be Mall Cops.

      Jeff

      • UncleBob says:

        >More to the point, however, do you want your scarce tax dollars paying for Walmart’s in-store security (a cost the company could easily pay for)

        Funny you should say that – how many times have we heard stories about Walmart stores using their own employees/private security and Walmart gets painted as the bad guy for trying to be a private police force?

        We completely agree that Walmart should get the same police protection as everyone else – if the community wants to pass a law that says “You cannot call the police for theft under $10 or we’ll charge you $2,500”, then that law should apply to everyone equally.

  4. Jeff Hess says:

    Bob,

    I have no problem with Walmart spending corporate funds to field a properly trained, educated and informed in-store security force.

    My problems have been with hiring under-trained, under-educated and ill-informed staff that are underpaid and perform as if the customers were guilty until proven innocent and subject to whatever brutalities the security personnel feel is appropriate.

    I worked in retail while in high school and college and the stores where I worked never had more than two or three people on security duty. The schools where I now work also have district security personnel that are well trained, well educated and well informed. We have yet to have any problems.

    Walmart (and other corporations) simply need to pay what is necessary to do the job right and stop pretending that going on the cheap or sucking at the public teat is acceptable.

    As to your final point, when was the last time you heard of a citizen calling the police over a $10 theft, or calling the police multiple times a day, day after day, without civic repercussions?

    Jeff

    • UncleBob says:

      This is one of the most amazing cases of victim blaming that I’ve seen.

      Yes, I’ve heard of folks calling the police because they had stuff under $10 stolen from them.

      And if you want to put a cap on how many times a particular person or organization can call the police out to help in the case of a crime committed against them, then I suppose you could propose such an ordinance/law. I can’t support it.

      Here’s an idea – instead of charging the victim $2,500 for each call, how about we charge the individual perpetrating the crime the $2,500? (Not something I can get behind either, but if we’re going to charge someone every time a crime is committed, I’d prefer we charge the criminal rather than the victim…)

  5. Jeff Hess says:

    Bob,

    Let’s try the argument this way:

    You live in a community that has X number of police on duty at any one time.

    In that community you live 20 minutes away from the Walmart that serves your community.

    Your neighbor phones 911 to report someone breaking into your home.

    At the time of the break in, X minus 1 on-duty police are dealing with violent crimes where peoples’ lives are in danger.

    The one remaining cop has been called to the Walmart to deal with a non-violent shoplifter for the 60th time that month.

    By the time that one cop wraps up the Walmart call and drives the 20 minutes to your home, the people who have broken into your home are long gone.

    Was dealing with the non-violent shoplifter a good use of your tax dollars?

    Jeff

    • UncleBob says:

      You can try it that way – but that same situation could happen if it was the first time or the 60th time the remaining cop was called out to Walmart. It could happen if the remaining cop had been called out to Walmart for a shoplifter, an armed robbery, or two customers who got in a fender bender in the parking lot and one of them called the cops (or, my favorite, the customer who *just* notices damage to their vehicle, so they call the cops because they *know* it was a hit-and-run on the Walmart parking lot (hint, 90% of the time, it didn’t)).

      It could happen if the remaining cop was called out to a residence due to domestic violence or because some neighborhood watch guy saw a scary guy walking around in a hoodie.

      There are a ton of reasons that could happen (which, by the way, I live in a small town where it’s possible we have one or two officers on duty at any given time). I still don’t see why it’s acceptable to blame the victim of the crime.

      Again, instead of charging the victim, let’s charge the perpetrator of the criminal activity, eh?

      Oh, and not 100% in agreement with this, but I was talking with my wife about it – the thing about “Walmart should hire/train more private security” – she says that sounds a lot like telling a woman she should wear more clothes if she doesn’t want to be a victim of sexual violence. Telling the victim of a crime that they should have to take extra steps (that aren’t expected of the rest of society) to not have a crime perpetrated against them is *exactly* blaming the victim.

  6. Jeff Hess says:

    Bob,

    I think there should be limits on the amount of tax money private corporations should be able to count as income/assets on their books.

    You don’t.

    I get that.

    Jeff

    • UncleBob says:

      Oddly, I feel like you don’t get it at all.

      Let me ask this – if a poor neighborhood mostly full of minorities lives clustered together in one area of an urban city, should law enforcement be allowed to use the increase in calls to that area as an excuse to stop providing basic services to the citizens of that area?

  7. Someone in USA says:

    Please…it is the duty of law enforcement to deal with criminals. Walmart is not to blame for people committing crimes on its property any more than you are for crimes on yours.

    Regarding private security…how often is Walmart blamed when associates take the law into their own hands?

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