Mayor Harold Greene of Locust, North Carolina says his little city is “rich with traditional values and progressive leadership.” “I predict a population growth to 15,000 in fifteen years,” the Mayor boasts. “Locust’s convenient position just 11 miles from Interstate 485 promotes business recruiting as well as trade from Mecklenburg, Union, and Cabarrus Counties. Locust’s prime location, smiling faces, safe neighborhoods, and thriving businesses, make our city a wonderful place to live and work.” Wal-Mart wanted its smiley face in Locust — but now local officials aren’t smiling over the potential financial impact of crime in their small community attributable to the Wal-Mart superstore that is coming. According to the Stanly News and Press (SNAP), the residents of Locust recently heard from a consultant about the potential impact of crime on this city located northwest of Charlotte, North Carolina. Because of concerns over growth in Locust, the city council brought in a consultant to evaluate the Locust Police Department. To assess their police department’s capacity to handle growth, the city retained David McAlexander, a former police officer with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD). McAlexander examined in detail the police department’s call load and volume, growth and staffing. “I consider myself a change agent,” McAlexander told the SNAP. I take a compilation of data and look at what needs to be done to move forward.” The consultant began work in December, and spent a couple of days a week with the police in Locust — riding along with cops in the cruiser, interviewing officers, and researching public safety trends. This past week, McAlexander presented his report to city officials. In his report, McAlexander projected that the city’s population would double from 3,200 today, to 6,500 by the year 2010. The regional Wal-Mart that will open, and the Red Bridge Golf and Country Club will play a major role in demands being placed on the Locust police. According to McAlexander, the city will be forced to increase from its current staffing level of nine officers. McAlexander studied the police department call load in 2007 and 2008, and found an increase in volume of 16%. In 2007, the police department received 5,084 calls for service, but calls jumped to 5,888 in 2008. If Locust population increases as projected, McAlexander projects that the police department will receive as many as 9,357 calls for service by the year 2010. This is an 84% increase from 2007. “I’m not saying that ‘the sky is falling’ but I’m trying to show the areas where focus needs to be given as the department looks to the future,” McAlexander told the SNAP. One major worry in the future is the Red Bridge Golf and Country Club, which will have 1,100 homes and 3,300 new residents. But, according to the SNAP, the other major concern is Wal-Mart. According to the newspaper, “Wal-Mart is also an area to be concerned about as national figures show approximately 973,000 calls for service across the U.S. at Wal-Mart locations.” McAlexander suggested the city council should plan on adding six new patrol officers within the next year and a half to keep up with rising calls — a 67% increase in personnel. “The good news out of all of this is that you, as a council, town and police department, have the opportunity to act instead of react,” McAlexander told city officials. But its unlikely that Mayor Harold Greene found any good news in this police capacity report. Right about now, the Mayor may be wishing there were no Wal-Marts at all coming to Locust.
The figure of 973,000 police calls to Wal-Mart nationally is an unsettling figure. This figure is very close to a projection made in 2006 by Wake Up Wal-Mart, which released the first national crime study just on Wal-Mart locations. The Wake Up Wal-Mart nationwide study analyzed police crime reports during 2004 involving 551 randomly selected Wal-Mart stores in 434 cities in 30 states. The surveyed stores generated 148,331 calls for police service, or an average of 269 police incidents per store. And 2,909 of those calls were for violent or serious crimes, the report said. Based on the survey, the report estimated that Wal-Mart’s national chain of more than 3,857 stores generated 1 million police responses in 2004, at a cost of $77 million to taxpayers. Little Locust is just the tip of the crime iceberg at Wal-Mart. A quick scan of this past week’s headlines of crime at Wal-Mart included: a murder-suicide at a Wal-Mart in Florida City, Florida; a fake kidnapping in a Dallas, Texas Wal-Mart; a teenage gang shooting in a Rochester, New Hampshire Wal-Mart; an armed robbery in a Lumberton, North Carolina Wal-Mart; the opening argument in a real abduction case in an East Stroudsberg, Pennsylvania Wal-Mart; and felony sexual charges from a ‘bathroom romp’ in a Wal-Mart superstore in Callaway Florida. Readers are urged to contact Locust Mayor Harold Greene at [email protected] with the following message: “Dear Mayor Greene, You probably weren’t too pleased to read the details of the new police report submitted by your consultant. Most citizens have no idea how much crime takes place at a Wal-Mart. I wonder what your reaction was to the projected need for 6 new police officers in your small city — and the projected 973,000 police reports that Wal-Mart gets every year across America? You might say that crime at Wal-Mart has been like a plague of locusts, according to a report commissioned by Locust, North Carolina. Maybe its time for the city to ask Wal-Mart to pony up for some of those new police officers you will need to respond to incident reports at their new superstore. Wal-Mart never told you about their crime problem, but now that your consultant is bringing it out into the open, its a good time to ask the corporation to step forward on its own, and help the taxpayers of your small community. After all, Wal-Mart seems to be one of the few companies that cleans up in a recession. Perhaps its time for them to clean up their own public safety problems.”