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Police departments are furious at Walmart for a policy that has made it a dangerous place to shop

Kate Taylor

(Reuters/Jim Young)
More than 200 violent crimes have been committed so far this year at Walmart locations across the US — about one per day.

And, according to a new Bloomberg article, a company policy is to blame.

Walmart stores have been host to crimes from shoplifting and stabbing to manslaughter and attempted kidnapping in 2016, report Shannon Pettypiece and David Voreacos at Bloomberg.

From housing meth labs to shootings, police stations across the country told Bloomberg that Walmart locations have become a hotbed for crime.

"It's ridiculous — we are talking about the biggest retailer in the world," Tulsa police Sgt. Robert Rohloff told Bloomberg, saying that the retailer forces taxpayers to pay for the police to do work that Walmart should be paying security to do.

Worse, Bloomberg argues that the crime is a result of corporate policies. Cost-cutting policies that started in the early 2000s resulted in a drop in store quality, while the loss of greeters and the rise of self-checkout scanners made shoplifting and other illegal activities easier to engage in without employees noticing.

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(Earlier this year, Walmart closed 269 US locations.Nicholas Eckhart)

It's a result that drove profits: The article states that sales per employee in the US grew 23% in the last decade to $236,804. But it has also contributed to lawsuits against the chain, with plaintiffs arguing that Walmart did not provide enough sufficient security to prevent crimes and should be held accountable.

"In the coming weeks and months, we will continue our increased outreach to law enforcement across the country, as part of our ongoing commitment to meet our customer's and associate's expectations of a safe and enjoyable shopping experience," a Walmart representative said in an email to Business Insider. "The importance of this issue is recognized at the highest levels of the company and we are investing in people and technology to support our stores."

But until the change is apparent to customers, the crime problem could be a huge issue for the budget retailer.

With the growth of e-commerce, many chains are focusing on making the in-person shopping experience more enjoyable to draw customers to their locations. If its shopping experience is not enjoyable but also unsafe, then Walmart is at serious risk of losing customers to online competitors as well as retailers focusing on improving in-store experiences.

Even ignoring the issue of lawsuits, Walmart's reputation as a hotbed for violent crime is a dangerous one that the retailer needs to shake — fast.

To read the full Bloomberg story, click here.

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