KFOX14 Investigates: Thousands of calls for police come from local Walmart stores


The world's largest retailer is also a hot spot for 911 calls.

KFOX14 Investigates found thousands of calls came from Walmarts in El Paso, involving shoplifting, burglaries, assaults and public disturbances.

KFOX14 Investigates dug through hundreds of pages of 911 records and found police are spending a lot of their time responding to local Walmarts.

Almost 18 times a day, someone calls El Paso 911 from the same store. Walmart.

KFOX14 Investigates found 6,500 911 calls came from local Walmart stores last year.

More than 4,000 times, at least one El Paso police officer was dispatched.

Often officers are sent to the same Walmart, over and over again.

One day in January 2015, in a matter of just three hours police were called for three different shoplifters.

The retailer also sees its share of more serious crimes.

KFOX14 Investigates found 911 calls for shots fired, aggravated assaults and aggravated robberies. And KFOX14 Investigates listened to a 911 call on Christmas Eve 2015 for a reported bomb threat at an eastside Walmart.

KFOX14 was on the scene of a stabbing at this northeast Walmart at Hondo Pass last month.

But many of the calls are low priority calls -- things such as shoplifting, theft, drunks, illegal parking and arguments.

Then there are calls like one where a father called police because his son wouldn't get out of the car.

"We do get some stupid calls, to be very honest,” said Ron Martin, president of the Police Union.

Martin said there are certain factors that make Walmart a high call location including the size of the store and the amount of customers it sees every day. He said that makes it an easy target for thieves.

“Most of shoplifting and burglaries in El Paso, it's all drug related. They are stealing merchandise, pawning it, selling it for drugs, let's be honest,” he said.

In fact, the retail giant reports it serves 124 million customers a week nationwide.

Most Walmart’s are also open 24 hours, attracting people at all hours of the night.

But the big box store's apparent crime problem isn't just an issue in the Borderland.

Some retail experts trace the rise in crime at Walmart back to aggressive cost-cutting measures in 2000 that left stores with fewer employees and often little to no security personnel to keep an eye on customers.

Instead, its fallen on local law enforcement agencies. Across the country, law enforcement agencies have voiced frustration over the excessive calls from the retailer.

“I know people around the nation have been concerned,” said Martin.

At a northeast El Paso Walmart, KFOX14 Investigates saw a security car roving the parking lot.

But when we visited other El Paso Walmart stores we found no visible security presence.

KFOX14 Investigates compared local Walmarts to Targets and Kmarts in the area.

At the four Target stores in El Paso, there were 642 calls for police in a year and at the four Kmarts there were 417 calls.

The stores with the most calls in a year for police: the SuperCenter on Dyer St. with 621. The Walmart on Alameda Avenue had 434 and the Supercenter on Mesa Street had 425.

The demand for police response at Walmart's taxes resources.

But Martin said it’s not fair to single out one retailer.

He says local malls are also frequent callers.

Martin said if Walmart beefs up its own security with uniformed officers it will help deter crime. But it could lead to more arrests

“Who are they going to call when they arrest them? Us,” said Martin.

The retail giant has publicly stated it wants to cut down on crime.

Walmart said it's making strides to do just that.

"No retailer is immune to the challenge of crime. The importance of this issue is recognized at the highest levels of the company and we are moving aggressively to address these issues by investing in robust technologies and crime prevention efforts while also working closely with law enforcement, security professionals, and community leaders," said Anne Hatfield, Walmart spokesperson.

Just a few months ago; Walmart began a new program at eight Walmart locations in El Paso called Restorative Justice.

It allows shoplifters who are first time offenders, to complete an education program instead of being arrested and charged.

Since implementing this program, Walmart reports calls for police at El Paso Walmart stores dropped 30 percent.

And the company said it's making other changes to make safety a priority.

It's put additional staff at the front door, changed its returns policy to serve as an additional deterrent and put more employees on the sales floor.

Martin said regardless of the amount of calls at Walmart, when they get a call for help, they'll be there.

“It doesn't matter if you have a small business or a big business, if you call 911 you should expect a police officer there,” said Martin.

Walmart said it is always re-evaluating its safety at each individual store.

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