Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Tampa Bay Times investigation on the cost of emergency services associated with Walmart stores

Years ago, when I first started working on urban revitalization issues I remember coming across an article from some newspaper out west about the large numbers of police calls to a local Walmart and the high costs this imposed on the locality, to the point where it exceeded the sales tax revenue generated by the store. This type of economic impact is rarely touted when local officials chortle about the entry of Walmart into their communities.
Walmart
The Tampa Bay Times noticed a similar pattern with Walmart stores in the Tampa Bay area and chose to investigate it further. See "Walmart: thousands of police calls, you paid the bill." From the article:
Law enforcement logged nearly 16,800 calls in one year to Walmarts in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties

Law enforcement logged nearly 16,800 calls in one year to Walmarts in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties, according to a Tampa Bay Times analysis. That’s two calls an hour, every hour, every day.

Local Walmarts, on average, generated four times as many calls as nearby Targets, the Times found. Many individual supercenters attracted more calls than the much larger WestShore Plaza mall.

When it comes to calling the cops, Walmart is such an outlier compared with its competitors that experts criticized the corporate giant for shifting too much of its security burden onto taxpayers. Several local law enforcement officers also emphasized that all the hours spent at Walmart cut into how often they can patrol other neighborhoods and prevent other crimes.

“They’re a huge problem in terms of the amount of time that’s spent there,” said Tampa police Officer James Smith, who specializes in retail crime. “We are, as a department, at the mercy of what they want to do.”, according to a Tampa Bay Times analysis. That’s two calls an hour, every hour, every day.

Local Walmarts, on average, generated four times as many calls as nearby Targets, the Times found. Many individual supercenters attracted more calls than the much larger WestShore Plaza mall.

When it comes to calling the cops, Walmart is such an outlier compared with its competitors that experts criticized the corporate giant for shifting too much of its security burden onto taxpayers. Several local law enforcement officers also emphasized that all the hours spent at Walmart cut into how often they can patrol other neighborhoods and prevent other crimes.

“They’re a huge problem in terms of the amount of time that’s spent there,” said Tampa police Officer James Smith, who specializes in retail crime. “We are, as a department, at the mercy of what they want to do.” ...

Many businesses paid a lot more in property taxes than the local Walmart but were much less of a burden on police. The Tyrone Square Mall in St. Petersburg, for instance, paid nearly four times as much in taxes as three nearby supercenters combined. Still, the mall attracted fewer police calls.
The story discusses how because Walmart's margins are so low, the shoplifting of an item costing only a few dollars takes away the profit from $100 of sales, so they take any theft seriously.

But not seriously enough to hire their own security personnel, which would also cut into their margins.

In developing special zoning review protocols for big box stores, dealing with security and crime issues should be an element.  A security plan should be required, and a commitment made by the company on investing in its own security infrastructure should be a must, rather than offloading it on local police departments.

Note that other retail businesses with high incidents of crime include convenience stores ("Hartford, Houston enact rules to reduce late night crime at stores, 2008 and "Disproportionate link between Circle K convenience stores and crime in Phoenix suburbs," 2011) and gas stations, and of course night life establishments.

In those business categories, zoning and business licensing protocols should require similar types of security planning in advance of the business' opening, and ongoing.

Labels: , , , ,

2 Comments:

At 1:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

1. Florida...
2. Concentrations of poor people bring crime. Who knew?

 
At 1:55 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

relatedly, in terms of "your reputation precedes you," Walmart reported that the sales at their urban stores in DC were below what they expected.

The stores appeal to the less well off. DC is increasingly home to people that are better off. Just because the store is in the city, why should it have been expected that people of higher income demographics would want to shop there?

It was a mistake for the city to bet so much on the company's entry.

 

Post a Comment

<< Home