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2001-02-03
Colorado & Maryland: More Crime At Big Boxes

Less than a month ago, on January 7th, 60 Minutes aired a piece on crime at Wal-Mart, and the company's inability to "find" a crime study its people had conducted of store premises. The CBS report also quoted a retired Wal-Mart security manager from Memphis, TN, who said Wal-Mart "did not want to project an image that we needed security." But security is an on-going problem. Less than two weeks later, the National Home Center News, a home improvement industry maagazine, ran a story titled "Violent Crime at Two Warehouse Stores," including a murder conducted behind a Home Depot store in Colorado Springs, CO, and an armed robbery/hostage taking at a Lowe's store in Bowie, Maryland. In the Home Depot case in Colorado, a 24 year old man was found dead on Christmas morning wedged between a Home Depot dumpster and the back wall of the store. Police determined that whoever killed Michael Reynolds shot him in the Home Depot lot. A spokesman for Home Depot said that the store operations were not interfered with by the police investigations into the murder. This was not the case at the Bowie, MD Lowe's, where armed gunmen held several employees hostage in an attempted robbery on New Year's Day. According to media reports, Lowe's employees may have been involved in the robbery effort. One of the robbery suspects was "a former or current employee of the chain" the NHC News said. The Lowe's hostage incident lasted for 5 hours, and involved a SWAT team and 2 helicopters -- all at taxpayer expense. The store was closed for the rest of the day. The two alleged robbers apparently entered the store wearing "orange trash bags" over their clothing.

What you can do: Were these guys wearing orange trash bags as a not too subtile reference to Home Depot -- or were they just trying to be easily identified by police marksmen? It's hard to fathom why anyone would wear orange trash bags during a robbery, but they might have hoped that Lowe's employees would assume they were from Home Depot. But violent crime remains a serious concern at big box stores. According to the 60 Minutes story, Wal-Mart has now hired an outside law firm to help improve the way it handles requests for store documents, like crime reports. "As for the issue of crime in its parking lots," the report concluded, "Wal-Mart says it does everything it can to ensure the safety of its customers." Wal-Mart now has cameras not only inside the store, but on the roofline of the store overlooking the parking lot. One man whose wife was abducted and murdered from a Wal-Mart parking lot, told 60 Minutes: "Notwithstanding all of the information (Wal-Mart) had about crime happening -- happening on that particular parking lot, they did nothing." These and other crime stories can be found in the book "Slam Dunking Wal-Mart: How You Can Stop Superstore Sprawl in Your Hometown" on pages 52 to 62. Residents from any community can check on "incident reports" of crime at Wal-Mart by going to their local police department and requesting such data.










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

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