[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.