HICKORY, NC – It’s the nation’s largest retailer, employing 1.5 million workers in the United States alone. But Walmart has also become a magnet for many crimes – draining local police departments in our area.
In Hickory, it’s not uncommon for police to find themselves at the Walmart Supercenter along Highway 70 southeast. We have seen officers responding every day of the week, day and night. In the past year alone, police records show nearly every type of case imaginable, from burglaries and auto thefts to fraud and shoplifting.
Among the arrests for shoplifting was Desaray Stolling, who was accused of stealing a pair of pants. We showed him the papers for his arrest and the hundreds of other cases in Hickory.
“For me, my family and my friends, it was very embarrassing,” she said.
Stollings is not alone. Over the course of a year, Hickory Police handled 202 cases of shoplifting at the Walmart Supercenter.
In Granite Falls, the police say they respond daily to their Walmart Supercenter. Some of the calls can take over an hour of an agent’s time reviewing surveillance video and conducting interviews inside the store.
“92 percent of our thefts [for the entire town] are at Walmart, “Police Captain Chris Jenkins said.” When you look at one hundred percent of our thefts, 92 percent were at Walmart. “
Police said they were working closely with the retailer to reduce those numbers by letting store security deal with petty thefts. Burke, Caldwell and Catawba County District Attorney David Learner is trying to reduce the number of repeat offenders. He says Walmart often forbids people in the store from stealing items. He says if they come back to commit another theft, he accuses them of break and enter or habitual theft.
“When someone goes to jail for five years instead of thirty days, I think it impacts them in terms of specific deterrence, and the people they run with are like, and that’s what we call general deterrence, ”he explained. .
Walmart says they are working to deter crime in their stores. During a shopping trip, a person walks past at least a dozen surveillance cameras inside and in the parking lot. There are also plainclothes security guards patrolling stores looking for thefts.
“We have the technology front. I mean, you have everything from eye level cameras. You have the cosmetic enclosures in some stores where it’s parked and an associate works there. We are also moving from full detection to concept deterrence, ”said Ragan Dickens of Walmart.
Walmart says this concentration allowed them to reduce police calls by 30% in 2016 and 15% last year.
But Desaray Stollings told us she thinks those efforts are going too far. She was arrested in four different counties for thefts from local businesses and now faces the usual petty theft charge for her arrest for stealing the pair of pants. It is an allegation that she denies.
“I would advise people if you shop at Hickory Walmart that they are known to harass people and just be careful,” she suggested.
But police say they believe Walmart – despite the number of calls – is trying to work with local law enforcement. District Attorney David Learner said anyone arrested would face consequences.
“They have to straighten their game, but in the absence of that, they have to take it somewhere other than the 25th arrondissement because we are going to lay bare,” he said.
Cox Media Group