Walmarts are high-crime zones thanks to staff cuts, but America gets the bill

Starting in 2000, Walmart began an aggressive cost-cutting campaign that removed greeters, reduced floor staff, and replaced cashiers with automated checkouts; the more this went on, the higher the crime-rate at Walmart soared, everything from shoplifting to deadly violence. In true Walmart style, the world's largest retailer has offloaded the costs associated with this crime to tax-funded law-enforcement.

The four Tulsa Walmarts generated 2,000 police callouts in 2015. The city's four Targets generated 300 callouts. While most of the Walmart incidents involved petty theft, there were also five armed robberies, an accused murderer who committed suicide in the parking lot, and a fatal parking-lot shootout. Overall, at least 200 violent crimes were committed at Walmart stores this year — one a day.

Walmart bosses say they're not happy with this and plan on fixing it, but in the meantime, they're pocketing incredible savings ($236,804 in sales per employee, up 23% in the past decade) from low staff levels (one worker/524 sqft of retail space, up 19% over the past 10 years) and passing on the costs to the same tax-payers who subsidize Walmart's low wages through government assistance programs for employees who would starve to death without them.

Walmart's lawyers typically argue that the company couldn't have foreseen the crime in question and that it took reasonable steps to keep customers safe. It tries at every opportunity to keep its crime database secret. Even in litigation, when it must produce company records under court seal, its lawyers have wrangled for months or even years to limit access to its records, arguing the information is proprietary. "Nothing compares to the way Walmart litigates cases," says attorney Christopher Marlowe. He fought Walmart for several years over a lawsuit he filed in 2010 on behalf of a woman who was abducted outside a store in DeFuniak Springs, Fla., and repeatedly raped. Marlowe said in a court filing that he learned only in 2013 of the database, which documented "precisely the sort of incidents" he sought for more than two years. Walmart's lawyer, he said, "led everyone to believe that crime data retrieval was a great mystery—a query of inconceivable proportions." Walmart denied liability in the case. The company eventually settled for an undisclosed sum.

Walmart's Out-of-Control Crime Problem Is Driving Police Crazy
[Shannon Pettypiece and David Voreacos/Businessweek]

(via Naked Capitalism)