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2004-08-09
Hilltown, PA. Wal-Mart's Crime Costs Add Up.

Police across America are seeing more action these days, thanks to a retailer called Wal-Mart. Behind the dramatic headlines of people being shot or worse in Wal-Mart parking lots, is the daily grind of petty crimes at the large retailer that drain the public treasury. The latest chapter comes from Hilltown, Pennsylvania. "They're probably the vast majority of our bad checks and retail thefts," Hilltown Police Chief Chris Engelhart said of the Wal-Mart store on Route 309. According to the Intelligencer newspaper, over the past year and a half, Wal-Mart alone was responsible for 76% of the 108 retail theft reports to Hilltown police, and 66% of the 56 bad check reports. The newspaper reports that Hilltown is not alone in noting a marked incidence of crime. As reported in an earlier story, a district court in Lancaster County, PA. dedicates two days each week to process Wal-Mart arraignments. In Richland, a community just a short drive from Hilltown, Police Chief Lawrence Cerami says the Wal-Mart there, built in 1999, has generated 2,017 reports for retail theft and bad checks, or about 12% of all calls for assistance the department has received. Richland has other big box retailers, like Kohl's and Bon Ton -- but Wal-Mart is number one when it comes to incidents of crime. Chief Cerami says he and his officers often respond to calls at the store that don't lead to reports. By the time the cops are on the scene, the suspects are usually long gone. The Chief faults Wal-Mart for letting the problems get out of hand. The Chief's suggestions to Wal-Mart have gone unheeded. "They say the corporate people don't like the ideas or that they don't want to offend the customers. Well, if you don't care about getting ripped off, maybe we shouldn't care as much about solving the crimes," he told the Intelligencer. A spokesman for the Loss Prevention Research Council, says that Wal-Mart has a more serious crime problem than most retailers. Wal-Mart is a particular target for several reasons. "You've got a lot of hot products, you've got a large area where people can get lost, and not a lot of employees to watch them," the Council said. Wal-Mart likes to take a tough public stance on shoplifting, which is called "shrinkage" in the trade, saying they prosecute everyone who steals from them. "It takes money out of our customers' pockets," one Wal-Mart spokesperson said. To encourage Wal-Mart workers to watch for theft, the workers get less of an annual bonus as the volume of stolen merchandise rises. Before the Richland Wal-Mart opened, the company gave the community $50,000 for police costs over five years. "Quite frankly, that's a drop in the bucket," Chief Cerami admitted. Four years ago, Richland had five cops plus the Chief. Today, it has nine cops. Criminal activity at Wal-Mart costs about half a year's salary for one officer, city officials said -- which comes to a lot more than the $10,000 a year they got from Wal-Mart.

What you can do: Murders, muggings, kidnappings, rapes, auto theft -- it's all happened in Wal-Mart parking lots. To read similar crime stories going back years, search this database by "crime." Print out the stories that come up, and take them to your local town officials. Wrap them up like a present, and give it to your City Council when Wal-Mart comes up for a public zoning hearing. Tell them its a "present" that Wal-Mart gives the community.










 
 
"Norman has become the guru of the anti-Wal-Mart movement" ~ 60 Minutes

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