It looks like 2010 could be another violent year in the Wal-Mart War Zone. On December 29, 2009, Sprawl-Busters stated that “the closest thing America has to domestic War Zones are the huge parking lots outside of Wal-Marts. This No Man’s Land is a battlefield where every imaginable crime occurs, from purse-snatching to rape, to murder. That observation elicited the following response from Wal-Mart corporate headquarters: “My name is David Tovar and I work in Wal-Mart’s communications department. I thought it was important to respond to Mr. Norman’s column because the safety and security of our customers and associates has always been a top priority for us. We have more than 140 million shoppers in our U. S. stores every week and unfortunately there will be individual incidents. But let me assure you that every store puts a lot of focus on its security and crime prevention measures. We also partner closely with law enforcement agencies in every community we serve to continually review our safety measures and make them even more effective. We are confident that we have the right safety measures in place and our customers can continue to have a safe and enjoyable shopping experience at Walmart.” Days after this response, a string of stories challenged Wal-Mart’s notion of a ‘safe and enjoyable’ experience. In Albuquerque, New Mexico, police were investigating what they called the “suspicious death” of a Wal-Mart security worker that appears to be connected to a shoplifting incident. According to station KRQE, stunnned shoppers watched as police responded to a shoplifting call, which turned into a death. According to the police, a man and a woman, with their three children in tow, tried to walk out of the Wal-Mart with a belt, panty hose and a battery without paying. The merchandise was valued at $28. Two Wal-Mart “crime prevention officers” followed the suspects. A third Wal-Mart employee joined the other workers in a small room leading into the superstore. It was in that room that the third employee — reportedly a ‘crime prevention specialist’ immediately fell to the ground. One police spokesman told KRQE “Another witness said there was a possible struggle between one of the offenders and the crime prevention specialist, at that point the crime prevention specialist fell to the ground.” One eyewitness told the media, “You could just see them trying to give someone CPR. Then we saw a lot of people from Wal-Mart crying, the employees were crying.” Albuquerque police have not yet released the results of the store’s surveillance tape of the incident, and an autopsy of the dead employee. The next day, Deputies in Escambia County, Florida were searching for a white man in his 40s who allegedly kidnapped a woman from a Wal-Mart supercenter in Ensley, Florida, and then raped her. The woman told police she was having car trouble in the Wal-Mart parking lot. A man approached her and put a knife to her throat. The woman was forced into the back of his blue, two-door minivan. The man drove the Wal-Mart shopper a short distance in his minivan, and then raped her. The man drove the victim back to the Wal-Mart parking lot, and threatened that if she reported the crime, he would kill her. That same evening at 9:43 p.m. in Midvale, Utah, a female shopper in the parking lot of Wal-Mart #2207 was confronted by a robber who held a knife to her throat and demanded she hand over her purse. The woman refused to let go of her handbag, and while struggling with her assailant, got away with only a minor cut to her finger. The robber then fled the Wal-Mart parking lot, and was later apprehended by the police. Finally, the Buffalo News reported that a Canadian man was being held for robbery at the Wal-Mart in Nigara Falls, Ontario Wal-Mart. The 41 year old masked robber walked into the Wal-Mart on Morrison Street, approached the counter with a black revolver and demanded the pharmacist hand over all of the prescription narcotics there. The man fled with a large quantity of narcotics, but was later arrested by police.
Everyday, hundreds of crimes take place in the Wal-Mart War Zone. The company desperately wants to portray the shopping experience at Wal-Mart as “safe and enjoyable,” but the parade of criminal behavior continues. On May 20, 2006, Sprawl-Busters reported that WakeUpWalMart.com had released a national study on Wal-Mart and crime. The study, entitled “Is Wal-Mart Safe?” analyzed the official 2004 police incident reports (i.e. calls for police service) at 551 Wal-Mart store locations. According to the group’s press release, among the key findings of the study, were: ??? In 2004, police received 148,331 calls for service for the 551 Wal-Mart stores analyzed, averaging 269 reported police incidents per store. ??? For just the 551 stores sampled, there were 2,909 reported police calls for “violent or serious crimes,” including 4 homicides, 9 rapes or attempts, 23 kidnappings or attempts, 154 sex crimes, 550 robberies or attempts and 1,024 auto thefts. ??? Based on the number of reported police incidents for the sample, it is estimated police responded to nearly 1 million police incidents at Wal-Mart in 2004 costing taxpayers $77 million annually. ??? Wal-Mart stores have a significantly higher number of reported police incidents than nearby Target stores. For the sample, the average rate of reported police incidents at Wal-Mart stores was 400% higher than the average rate of incidents at nearby Target stores. “The high number of reported police incidents at Wal-Mart stores is shocking and outrageous,” Wake Up Wal-Mart said. “Wal-Mart’s customers and the community have a right to know whether or not their Wal-Mart is safe. Wal-Mart should immediately fund an independent study to explore the issue of crime at Wal-Mart stores nationwide and immediately take the necessary steps, including putting in roving security patrols and staffing security cameras, to ensure the safety of its customers at every Wal-Mart store. Public safety and crime are serious issues. Despite internal warnings about crime at some of Wal-Mart’s stores, it is clear Wal-Mart still has a high number of reported police incidents at too many stores. As our nation’s largest retailer, Americans deserve to know the truth about whether or not Wal-Mart is safe. As we start 2010, four years after the Wake Up Wal-Mart report, it appears that Wal-Mart has been unable or unwilling to reign in the crime that takes place in the Wal-Mart War Zone. Wal-Mart can say it has “the right safety measures in place,” but tell that to the woman whose car broke down in the Wal-Mart parking lot, and ended up getting raped instead of assisted by Wal-Mart security officials. Or the woman who was assaulted at knife point in the Nigara Falls Wal-Mart parking lot. For further background, readers should go to walmartcrimereport.com to read the Wake Up Wal-Mart study, which was based on 2004 data.