Wal-Mart doesn’t like to talk about crime at their stores, but Newsflash has recorded many stories over the years about the busy lives of cops in Wal-Mart supercenter towns. Add to the list Harrisville, Utah. The Associated Press reported this week that this small community of 4,000 people has seen calls to the police rise by one-third since Wal-Mart opened for business three years ago. The number of police officers has jumped 50% (from 4 to 6) and the cops now patrol the Wal-Mart parking lot overnight. Half of the community’s driving under the influence cases emanate from the Wal-Mart parking lot. “Our DUIs skyrocketed,” the Harrisville police chief told the AP. “It just went through the roof.” The AP found the same story in Clinton, Utah, where the police chief said, “You just about name it. Domestic violence, shoplifting, fraud scams, we’ve had DUI, traffic accidents, medical situations — we haven’t had any shootings yet.” The Clinton police estimate that their population of 18,000 nearly doubles in size each day because of his city’s Wal-Mart. The Clinton chief told the story of one court judge asking him, “Have you been Wal-Mart-ized yet?” “Before we build a store, we begin a conversation with local law enforcement and we begin building a relationship with them,” said Sharon Weber, a spokeswoman for Wal-Mart. The cops get to know the Wal-Mart parking lot very intimately. But the Mayor of Harrisville claims his city gets $720,000 a year in sales taxes from Wal-Mart. But the cops in Harrisville claim that Wal-Mart has attracted drug users on methamphetamine who come to the superstore late at night. Most of the arrests in Harrisville are people from neighboring Ogden, population 77,000. The increased volume of cases also ties up court times, and costs taxpayers more to maintain the extended hours needed to allow the city prosecutor time to negotiate pleas. The police told the AP they view Wal-Mart as “good partners”, because the company has donated funds for a bike patrol program, firearms, computers in patrol cars and training materials and equipment. Wal-Mart is good for police business. Sales are up at Wal-Mart, and so, it seems, is crime.
For earlier stories on the crime problem at Wal-Mart, and some of the more unpleasant crimes, read my two books, and search the Newsflash page by “crime.”