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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

U.S. Senator calls on Walmart to review its security practices, expresses concern about police calls

A U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania wrote to the president of Walmart raising concerns about the amount of police resources the massive retailer soaks up across America.

The letter from Sen. Bob Casey, a Democrat, is dated May 27. It followed a story in The Express-Times, of Lehigh Valley, which riffed off of a Tampa Bay Times report about the burden placed on law enforcement by local Walmarts.

The Express-Times, like the Tampa Bay Times, found that Walmart was the site of more police calls in one year in its region than anywhere else. It published a similar story to the investigative report that had appeared earlier in the Tampa Bay Times and showed how Walmarts here had accounted for about 16,800 calls in a year, or two an hour, every hour of every day.

Casey then wrote to Walmart President Doug McMillon, urging the company “to examine its internal security protocol to ensure effective deterrence measures are in place and reduce the burden on local police.”

“Of course, police protect and serve every member of our communities, but the significant volume of calls from Wal-Mart stores raises serious questions about whether the company’s current security infrastructure effectively deters crime without overburdening local police departments, many of which already operate on stretched budgets,” the senator wrote in the letter, a copy of which The Express-Times posted online.

The Tampa Bay Times found that a large portion of calls to Walmart were for shoplifting, but an even bigger slice concerned general disorder, including drunk customers, mouthy teens and panhandlers. Experts said that more staffing, uniformed security and better store layouts could help Walmart deter many of those problems.

Casey contended that “large retailers like Wal-Mart bear responsibility to have in place reasonable security measures to assist in the deterrence of frivolous crimes.”

After the Tampa Bay Times report, politicians in several counties called on Walmart to meet with community leaders and find ways to reduce the workload it puts on police. Company officials have vowed to set up meetings in the area, saying “we know we can do better, and we will.”

Walmart officials have already met with the St. Petersburg Police Department and discussed the possible expansion of a diversion program for first-time shoplifters.

Casey wrote of the need for collaboration between police and the company in his letter.

“Local police have the solemn duty to keep our communities safe,” he wrote, “and the brave men and women who accept that burden should be able to expect the cooperation of business owners and community leaders in working together to create a safer environment.”

[Last modified: Wednesday, June 8, 2016 8:12am]

    

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