Wal-Mart can be counted on to consistently produce everyday crime in its parking lots — and even inside its stores. The world’s largest retailer has become the staging area for every imaginable crime — from murder to suicide to kidnapping. Local police have dealt with the mundane purse-snatchings and fraud-by-check incidents — but Wal-Mart has been plagued by bizarre crimes that don’t seem to overwhelm other national retailers. This week was typical. On March 14th, the Brownsville Herald reported that there was a “drug cartel-related kidnapping and shooting” in McAllen, Texas, “It appears to obviously be organized crime,” one police spokesman said. Two men were kidnapped from the parking lot of Wal-Mart Superstore #397 on Jackson Avenue. One man was pushed out of an SUV and shot, the second kidnap victim was released unharmed. Three hours earlier, inside Wal-Mart store #1290 in Wilkesboro, North Carolina, police say a man was shot during an argument inside the electronics department of the store. The victim was taken to Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, and no suspect has been apprehended. A few days earlier, a suspected gunman was shot and killed outside a Wal-Mart in Commerce, Texas. According to the Associated Press, a man walked into the Wal-Mart carrying with a “long gun and a pistol” and engaged in a shootout with police in the parking lot. The man was killed, and an off-duty police officer was shot in the chest. The Delta County, Texas Sheriff’s office said, “There’s no telling what the guy was going to do in Wal-Mart with those weapons.” On March 11th, two men were taken into custody after a 76-year-old woman was attacked and robbed in the restroom of the Wal-Mart Supercenter #1254 in Bellmead, Texas. Police said a man followed the elderly woman into the restroom of the store just after 10 a.m., attacked her and took her purse. On March 12th in Columbus, Ohio, Friday, the media reported that an elderly man had punched kids for fun at Wal-Mart. The 68-year-old man roamed his local Wal-Mart punching kids in the back of the head. He reportedly told police he deliberately picked little kids and “did it for the thrill” of doing it with the parents nearby. Pending his trial, a judge in Ohio set bond at $150,00 and told the defendant to ‘stay out of Wal-Marts.”
The judge’s advice may be good guidance for other shoppers as well: stay out of Wal-Mart. Consider the case of Glenda Jones, which hit the media across the nation this week. Jones says she was assaulted in a Wal-Mart store outside of Houston early one morning. “I’m inside the store and all of the sudden I’m being robbed,” Jones told Click2Houston. “I can’t describe what I’m feeling. I’m shocked. I’m seeing my life flash before me. I’m seeing my children.” Jones charges that she was locked in a chokehold, and her assailant put a knife to her back and said, “If you don’t give it all to me, I will kill you.” The man told Jones he would kill her family if she reported the robbery. But Jones pursued her attacker through the store, yelling for help. “I got right behind him and I was going after him. I was not going to let him get away — and nothing happen.” The robber walked out of the store, past store security, with no opposition. Jones complained to the manager, who told her that his ‘security guards’ cannot get involved with robberies. “He said even if the security guards had been inside the store, there’s nothing that they can do,” Jones claims. “They are there to protect the store.” In the past, Wal-Mart has been criticized for subduing alleged shoplifters forcibly, resulting in several shopper deaths. But when the company’s property is not at stake, the retailer apparently is not so aggressive in its pursuit. Wal-Mart submitted a written statement to Click2 Houston which read: “When the customer made us aware, we immediately contacted police, who are the best equipped to respond to this type of situation. We contacted the customer and her family to express our concern, and we worked with police in their investigation. When responding to a situation like this, we always take into consideration the safety and security of our customers as well as our associates.” Most shoppers at Wal-Mart are unaware that the retailer has become a magnet for crime. Just as large stores near the highways are convenient for shoppers — they are also convenient to criminals looking for a quick-in/quick-out venue. Wal-Mart defenders say the crime prevalence at the giant retailer only appears large because the company has so many stores. But the police reports per store in many locations top the list of retailers in a given area, and the cost of investigating and prosecuting these cases has become a major financial concern of in many communities large and small across the nation. Regardless of the underlying reasons, crime statistics at Wal-Mart cannot be matched by the competition. The response of one reader in Texas to the elderly woman being accosted in a restroom is typical of the public’s response. “The Wal-Mart in question is on the interstate and is frequented by people from all over the county. Those thugs could have come from anywhere… No matter how good the police force is they cannot be everywhere all the time. The last line of defense for your personal protection will always be you. Get a gun, get trained, and then carry it.” The unspoken ‘crime problem’ at Wal-Mart has not attracted national media attention, and remains this week a random collection of local news stories. But for Wal-Mart, the nature and frequency of these bizarre crimes has got to be at the top of their To Do list in Bentonville. Readers can contact their local police department and ask for a copy of the incident report for their area Wal-Mart. Such reports are usually prepared based on street addresses. Get a print of that report, and then send a letter to the editor of your local newspaper with the results.