Wal-Mart has had many problems locating superstores in California. The retailer currently has 37 superstores and 138 discount stores in California. This is the reverse of the typical situation, where superstores far outnumber discount store. In Texas, for example, Wal-Mart has 298 superstores and 40 discount stores. Citizen opposition and union activists have kept Wal-Mart’s superstore growth far below average in California. One of the many issues neighbors often raise against Wal-Mart is that the company is a magnet for crime. The daily police logs across the country have affirmed that crime inside and outside Wal-Mart superstores is an everyday problem for the corporation. The company has done little to dispel these concerns, and continues to rely on city and town police departments to serve as its first line of defense against criminal activity. But Wal-Mart has seen it all: murders, kidnappings, rapes, petty theft, check forgeries, and the ubiquitous shoplifting. It is appropriate, therefore, that the Turlock Journal newspaper in Turlock, California carried a story from the ‘crime desk’ in this community of roughly 69,000 people, reporting that 4 area Wal-Mart stores had chipped in buy a dog for the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department K-9 unit. The same story was also carried in the Modesto Bee newspaper. According to Wal-Mart’s regional manager, the stores used local profits of $10,100 to buy the County Sheriff a German Shepherd named Max. “Wal-Mart is a true partner to our community and to law enforcement,” the Stanislaus County Sheriff told the newspaper. “Without Wal-Mart’s support, it would be difficult for the K-9 unit to maintain the same level of service our community deserves. We appreciate Wal-Mart’s commitment to the safety of our community and their partnership to keep our K-9 unit at full force.” Turlock has not been a Wal-Mart friendly community. Sprawl-Busters reported on July 6, 2006, that a federal appeals court had rejected the giant retailer’s claim that a zoning ordinance in Turlock, which caps the size of buildings, violated its constitutional rights. The Turlock ordinance bans big box stores that exceed 100,000 s.f. and have an interior square footage selling non-taxable goods, like groceries, that exceeds 5% of gross area. When Turlock passed the ordinance in February of 2004, Wal-Mart filed an appeal in state and federal court, and began a two year effort to overturn the law. The California courts showed little interest in Wal-Mart’s arguments. The Stanislaus county Superior Court rejected Wal-Mart’s case, and when Wal-Mart appealed, so did the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. The federal court in Fresno sided with the city, leaving Wal-Mart batting 0 for 3. In addition, the city of Turlock fought back financially. The California State Assembly’s Judiciary Committee passed legislation to allow Turlock to sue Wal-Mart for attorney’s fees. Then-Mayor Curt Andre traveled to Sacramento to testify in favor of the bill. The city says it has spent at least $370,000 in legal fees fighting off Wal-Mart lawsuits. To repay the city for its legal troubles, Wal-Mart would have to buy Turlock 37 German Shepherds. It would take a lot of Ole Roy dog food to keep those Wal-Mart dogs happy.
“Wal-Mart is committed to being a good community neighbor and we are proud to partner with the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s K-9 Association to donate the funds necessary for K-9 ‘Max,'” a Wal-Mart Regional General Manager told the newspapers. “Our customers and our associates live and work in this community, and we know that programs like the sheriff department’s K-9 unit are vital to keeping our neighborhoods safe.” According to the Journal, Max will be trained to apprehend criminal offenders, and provide crowd control. In effect, Wal-Mart is donating this dog to themselves, because Max is likely to spend a considerable amount of time at the existing Turlock Wal-Mart at 2111 Fulkerth Road, and at the 1670 Mitchell Road store 8 miles away in Ceres, California. Just last week, the Turlock Journal reported that three separate robberies in the city had kept the Turlock Police Department busy over the last few days. The third robbery happened at the Wal-Mart in Turlock on August 9th. According to the police report, the suspect purchased several items, deposited them in his vehicle, and then returned to the store with empty bags and receipt in hand. The suspect proceeded to fill the bag up with the same items and attempted to leave the store, Wal-Mart’s store security detained the suspect before he could leave the store. During his detainment the suspect became combative and hostile, according to the store security. At one point he grabbed a cart and pushed his way out of the store. He dumped the purloined items into his car and took off. His clean getaway was slightly marred when he crashed into a parked van before reaching the open road. In the neighboring city of Ceres, a Wal-Mart superstore proposal has also sparked controversy. Ceres has 4 Wal-Mart’s within 20 miles to choose from, including the 124,000 s.f. Wal-Mart store #1983 located on Mitchell Road. In early July, 2007, Wal-Mart unveiled a project that will forever change the “small neighborhood personality” of Ceres — a 208,000 s.f. superstore on the south side of town near Highway 99. The new Wal-Mart project would also be located on Mitchell Road — less than two miles from the existing Wal-Mart, in an area the developer is calling “Mitchell Ranch Center.” Wal-Mart is intent on developing a 26.4-acre plot of land containing 16-plus acres of prime farmland. Some residents feel the proposed supercenter will dwarf the city because it is out of scale for the location. The supercenter would serve as the anchor store to a new shopping center development, if approved. It would become the gateway to Ceres. As one woman said, “If Wal-Mart is to symbolize the gateway to Ceres, where are we, the Twilight Zone?” It will take more than a German Shepherd to mend the torn relationships in Stanislaus County because of Wal-Mart’s over-building. Readers are urged to email the Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson at http://www.stanislaussheriff.com/ with the following message: “Dear Sheriff Christianson, I hope by now that you have trained your new K-9 dog, Max, how to find the Wal-Mart stores in Ceres, Turlock and Modesto. Perhaps Max is already at work on the robbery case that took place inside the Turlock Wal-Mart last week. It is fitting that Wal-Mart should contribute a police dog, given its significant contribution to area crime. If you check the pplice incident reports in Turlock, Modesto and Ceres, you will no doubt find that Max would be a busy dog if he responded just to the Wal-Mart stores in your county. Perhaps you can suggest to Wal-Mart managers that instead of buying you a dog, the retailer should pay Turlock back for its far more costly legal bills in fighting the corporation’s challenge to Turlock’s superstore law. In the meantime, tell Max to take a bite out of Wal-Mart crime.”