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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Walmartology: Crime in Consumerland

     Walmart, the nation's largest private sector employer, has its critics who complain that these superstores have destroyed smaller retail businesses turning downtowns into blight areas. Some don't like the fact that Walmart employees aren't unionized while others object to the land eaten up by these giant box stores and their vast parking lots. Although millions of consumers (myself included) take advantage of the convience and low prices of the Walmart experience, there is a growing awareness that Walmart locations have become a magnet for crime, and are perhaps not the safest places to shop or work. (Studies have shown a high rate of crime at hundreds of Walmart stores. In 2004, at 551 stores, one million crimes were reported to the police.)

     Millions of consumers, of whom 70 percent are women, shop at these 24-hour locations. This concentration of merchandise, people, their vehicles and money attracts almost every type of criminal offender. Walmart crime victims include the corporation itself, its employees, and visitors to the store. Crimes committed against the corporation include: bad checks, merchanise return fraud, employee theft, credit card fraud, and shoplifting. Inside the store crimes against visitors and employees include: homicide, assault, kidnapping, and robbery. The parking lot offenses include: vehicle theft, carjacking, purse-snatching, rape, assault, vehicle burglary, robbery, homicide, and kidnapping.

     While Walmart cannot be blamed for the nation's criminality, the corporation does have a moral and legal duty to protect, the best it can, its employees and customers. It also has a right to protect itself against visitor and employee crime.

CASES

Las Vegas

     At 4:30 in the morning, on September 9, 2011, at a 24-hour Walmart superstore in Las Vegas, police officers were arresting a man and a woman for credit card fraud when the man pulled away, drew a handgun from his waistband, and fired several shots at the officers, wounding one of them. At least one of the officers returned fire, hitting the gunman several times. The suspect died in the hospital later that day. None of the customers or employees in the store at the time were injured.

Elyria, Ohio

     A judge in Elyria, on September 30, 2011, sentenced 49-year-old Toni Duncan for assaulting a Walmart employee. The judge sentenced Duncan to fifteen days in jail and ordered her to take an anger management course for choking a 71-year-old Walmart greeter who asked to see a receipt as Duncan left the store. The judge also banned Duncan from this particular Walmart for five years. This customer was no longer welcome at Walmart.

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