This is the kind of reporting that gets to the heart of what it costs a community to support the Wal-Mart chain:
Law enforcement logged nearly 16,800 calls in one year to Walmarts in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties, according to a Tampa Bay Timesanalysis. 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.”
The Times reviewed thousands of records and interviewed dozens of officers and experts to provide an unprecedented look at the impact 53 Walmarts had on local policing.
Among the findings:
Walmart stores, with heavy foot traffic and cavernous layouts, are natural targets for shoplifters, panhandlers and other opportunists. Many are located in disadvantaged areas prone to more trouble. The retailer knows all of that, experts said, but doesn’t do enough to address the problems, despite ample resources. Walmart, they said, lays out its stores in a way that invites trouble and often doesn’t have enough uniformed employees to make sure everything runs smoothly.
Wal-Mart has a business model that expects the government to subsidize their part-time employees for health care costs and for basic needs. They do this by paying people low wages (food stamps, welfare benefits) and by denying them health care benefits. And now we know that store security, which should be paid for by the company itself, is completely outsourced to local law enforcement.
Private security guards could pick up the slack and give cops a break. Think they'll agree to do that? Well, unless there's some sort of legislation, or unless there's a per-visit charge from the police after a certain threshold is reached, I highly doubt it.