Metro area Walmarts rely on police to deal with shoplifting more than any other business, including rival big box stores like Target and Cub.
Legislators from St. Paul and Brooklyn Park say the discount giant has been gobbling up an unfair portion of their cities’ public resources. Rather than hiring their own security to deal with petty crimes, they say, Walmart is forcing taxpayers to subsidize security for its stores.
In the past year, the St. Paul Walmart made 2,129 calls for service; Bloomington had 1,250; Brooklyn Center 1,099; and Brooklyn Park 480. The total cost to these cities is estimated to be a little more than $3 million.
“A lot of times when Walmart comes into the cities, they ask for tax breaks, they ask for other incentives so that they can build there, and their thing is, ‘Well, we can provide jobs,’” says Rep. Mike Nelson (DFL-Brooklyn Park). “Well, they’re not providing that many jobs, they’re not providing well-paying jobs, and then they’re dumping their security problems back on the city resources.”
It’s unclear exactly how many security guards Walmart assigns to each store. While some hire off-duty police officers, others may not have any, says Rep. John Lesch (D-St. Paul). He’s asked Walmart to disclose an accurate count, but so far the company hasn’t answered.
According to its annual report, Walmart hauled $14.7 billion in profits last year.
The company can afford to reduce its number of police calls, Lesch says. He and Nelson have a bill in the works that will address the possibility of increasing private security in the stores, or modifying Walmart’s rules on when to call 911. He hopes to have a hearing on this in the upcoming legislative session, where police chiefs will be invited to share their views on whether Walmart pulls resources away from other parts of their cities.
On Wednesday, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union debuted a TV commercial condemning Walmart and its CEO Doug McMillon, who made $20 million this year, for spending too little on security.