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Cities in Minnesota Say That Walmart Uses Local Police as Unpaid Security Guards

December 18, 2016, 8:49 PM UTC
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Photo by ROBYN BECK AFP — Getty Images

Minnesota legislators claim Walmart has been using taxpayer money to subsidize security for its stores rather than paying for its own guards.

In the past year alone, a Walmart (WMT) in St. Paul, Minn. has reportedly made 2,129 calls for service related to petty crimes, and one in Bloomington, Minn. made 1,250. Overall, police visits to Walmart stores in the Twin Cities metropolitan area alone have cost an estimated $3 million, City Pages reports.

To combat the issue, two state representatives have a plan. State Rep. Mike Nelson of Brooklyn Park, and State Rep. John Lesch of St. Paul are working on a bill that, if passed, would increase private security in the stores, or modify Walmart’s rules on when to call 911. The bill will be addressed at an upcoming legislative session, according to City Pages.

“A lot of times when Walmart comes into the cities, they ask for tax breaks, they ask for other incentives so that they can build there, and their thing is, ‘Well, we can provide jobs,”” Nelson first told City Pages. “Well, they’re not providing that many jobs, they’re not providing well-paying jobs, and then they’re dumping their security problems back on the city resources.”


Currently, it’s unclear exactly how many security guards Walmart assigns to each store. While some stores hire off-duty police officers, others may not have any, City Pages reports. But with its $14.7 billion in profits last year alone, Walmart can afford to reduce its number of police calls, Lesch said.

Nelson and Lesch aren’t the only two who have recognized the problem. Recently, Making Change at Walmart, a non-union group that’s backed by the United Food and Commercial Workers union, has aired TV ads that condemn Walmart for spending too little on security at its stores across the country, not just in Minnesota. The ads have brought the issue into a national spotlight, notes City Pages.

To address concerns, Walmart has started to implement crime deterrence programs like “Restorative Justice” and “More at the Door,” a Walmart spokesperson told Fortune in an email. (The latter of the two brings back greeters to the entrances of its stores).

“We’re encouraged by a 35% reduction in calls to law enforcement agencies nationwide, on average, since we began implementing crime deterrence programs like Restorative Justice and More at the Door,” he said. “We’ll continue our outreach to law enforcement across the country as part of our ongoing commitment to meet our customers’ and associates’ expectations of a safe and enjoyable shopping experience.”

This story has been updated to reflect response from Walmart.