Local News


CONTACT 13: Walmart keeps local police departments busy

Posted at 3:36 PM, Nov 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-24 11:56:39-05

Want to know where you're most likely to encounter crime this holiday shopping season?  The answer is the same in cities across the country.  

Contact 13 reveals how police get more calls to Walmart stores than almost anywhere else. And you pay for it.

In North Las Vegas and Henderson, Walmart stores were the number one locations for police calls last year. 

No other large retailer even shows up in the Top 10, but cops are being called to Walmart several times a day, every day of the year.

"When I saw the numbers I was absolutely shocked." Shopper Laura Salaz spends money at Walmart, but she doesn't expect to see so many of her tax dollars spent there. "Walmart is using my public resources as their private security."

It's not only Walmart stores in Southern Nevada. 

All across the country police are responding to scenes like customers fighting in the aisles, thefts in the parking lot, and violent outbreaks at customer service.   

North Las Vegas police responded to the Walmart on Lake Mead 441 times in 2015. That's a first place tie with Cheyenne Condo Apartments.  There was another Walmart in North Las Vegas' number 2 spot with 395 calls. Nearly all were for shoplifting, petit larceny and suspicious situations.   

"Those are resources that are better used somewhere else," says Laura. 

"Police presence in public areas, parks, playgrounds, things like that."

Two Walmarts are in the Top 10 off-strip locations for Las Vegas police -- Decatur and Charleston boulevards and Boulder Highway and Harmon.

Henderson police rolled more often to the Walmart on Marks Road than anywhere else in their jurisdiction. Almost twice a day. 

The other Henderson Walmart on Lake Mead was the 4th busiest location for cops there. 

Capt. Wade Seekatz says when it comes to Walmart's call volume, size does matter.

"There is nobody else that is that large that is a 24-hour operation," says Seekatz. 

He also says Walmarts serve as a landmark for entire shopping centers.

"That's going to account for a call to Walmart that has nothing to do with the business except they have a big sign and big name recognition," Seekatz explains. 

But leaders in other communities aren't buying it. 

"16,000 calls coming from the Walmart stores," says Victor Crist, County Commissioner for Hillsborough, Florida. "That could be very expensive, especially for the taxpayer because you know they're footing the bill."

The mayor of Beech Grove, Indiana is using a new law his city passed declaring Walmart a nuisance.    

"I've had it with them.  If they don't want to become a good corporate partner then hang on. Because we're going to court."

In Beech Grove, Walmart can be fined up to $2500 if police show up too many times in a month. 

The mayor hopes that will get the corporate giant to hire more staff and security, which Laura Salaz would like to see our leaders do here. 

"Maybe there should be a tax on Walmart per call." 

That's a question we tried bringing to our leaders.  North Las Vegas Police declined an on-camera interview. 

Clark county said they "we're going to take a pass on this."  And Mayor Goodman's office said she didn't have time to talk about it. 

Las Vegas police says they go where the calls are and it's up to stores to decide when they need police.  Metro also provided the following:

Of course, any location which we identify as having high volumes of calls for service is of concern. It’s important for us to analyze why we’re responding so frequently.

Specifically for retail stores like Walmart, we have had our Summons in Lieu of Arrest (SILA) program in place for some time. The SILA program allows loss prevention to complete police reports and issue court summons to petit theft suspects which meet certain criteria instead of calling officers to respond. Additionally, we’re actively working with retailers like Walmart to come to a solution collectively on how we can reduce calls for service at their locations.

Starting this week, Metro will have extra resources at major retail locations throughout the holiday shopping season. 

Walmart sent the following statement:  

No retailer is immune to the challenge of crime. That’s why we invest in robust technologies and crime prevention efforts while also working closely with law enforcement, security professionals, and community leaders.  Our stores are located within 10 miles of 90% of the U.S. population, and we’re proud to serve 140 million customers each week.  We are moving aggressively to address the number of calls for service- most recently with expanding More at the Door, which bolsters a presence at the front of stores - and we will do more.

Some examples of our current programs include:

·         More at the Door Program to bolster door presence and check receipts if appropriate

·         Customer hosts dedicated to self-check-out areas

·         New return program to detect attempts at return fraud

·         Restorative Justice program designed to reduce police calls to stores (This is currently in place in the Las Vegas metro market.  Nationally, we have seen a 35% reduction in the number of calls for service.)

·         Increased technologies used at point of sale and on sales floor to prevent crimes

·         Overall emphasis on improving store experience includes more associates on the sales floor

·         Increased training for Asset Protection associates both at store level and through our training academies

The Restorative Justice Program is one of several  programs we are implementing to help reduce shoplifting and calls for service to our stores. The program offers first time low risk offenders a second chance in order to make things right by participating in an educational course in lieu of prosecution.  We launched the program in 2014 in a handful of stores as a pilot and it is currently in place in about a third of our stores, including stores in the Las Vegas metro market.  Nationally, we’ve seen about a 35% decrease in calls for service to our stores as a result of the program. 

The “More at the Door” program refers specifically to associates at the entrances, in many cases checking receipts.  We find that the additional presence at the door and on the sales floor can be a deterrent to shoplifting. 


Each store has a security plan based on its unique circumstances and needs.  In some stores, in addition to More at the Door, we also hire off duty police officers as additional security. 

Charles Fisher, author of The Wallmart Effect  provided this insight:
The key is for people in a community to know how often police visit the local Wal-Mart stores, how many times a day, how much time those calls take including paperwork and followup, and what those calls are for. Do you really want police officers rolling out to handle shoplifting of deodorant that costs $3.99? Of a kids’ pair of jeans that costs $9.99? In one case in Florida, police were called to deal with a man who took a $1.99 bottle of iced tea, and drank it. What was the point of the Wal-Mart manager calling the police in that case?
Maybe the community does want it’s sworn officers handling calls like that. That’s up to them. But my bet is, most communities - most city councils, or county managers, or county commissions - would say, that’s a ridiculous use of the police. A single officer’s time - with training, support, equipment - costs in the range of $50 an hour.
Citizens and public officials simply don’t know how much Wal-Mart uses the local police. That’s why this kind of analysis by reporters is so important. It allows the communities, including the police, to say - whoa! We want the police to handle crime that’s important, that does damage, that makes people feel unsafe - that really makes people unsafe. But shoplifting at Wal-Mart doesn’t fit that. It’s bad, and it should be stopped - but that effort has to start with Wal-Mart.
The decision belongs to the community, of course. But providing the data is key. And that goes not just for Wal-Mart, but for all kinds of use of police time. It’s just that Wal-Mart, across the country, has turned out to be a huge user of police resources, in communities everywhere.
This kind of data even gives the police departments the ability to say, well, yes - that is a demanding element of the community, those Wal-Marts. If you want us to find a different way of handling that, we’d welcome the chance to do that, working with the political officials and Wal-Mart itself. That is, police may be reluctant, on their own, to say to a community member, you call us too much. But once the information is out there, it gives even the police themselves a way of tackling the problem differently.
And there is another cost, of course. If police are at Wal-Mart, worrying about shoplifting, that means those officers aren’t somewhere else, tackling other problems in a community. What’s the best use of the time of a police officer at any moment? That’s the question this kind of analysis and data allows people to answer.