Tuesday, Feb. 12 2013 4:15PM
Wal-Mart opponents say crime follows store
Police chief said statistics show shoplifting is biggest problem
By Russ Pulley
One of the issues raised by opponents of a new Wal-Mart store in south Lee’s Summit is a higher than average crime rate they said is associated with the big-box chain.
Police Chief Joe Piccinini said the local store doesn’t impact serious crime in the surrounding neighborhoods.
Brandi Riggs, a member of South Lee’s Summit Residents for Responsible Development, said she wanted to share concerns about bringing “potential crimes” into their area of the city. She said serious crimes, such as homicides or assaults, at Wal-Mart stores are six times higher than compared to Target.
She noted two schools and a preschool are nearby.
“While this may or may not bleed over into the community surrounding the store, it truly brings concerns for those living in such close proximity,” Riggs said during the hearing.
She presented those statistics to the Lee’s Summit City Council during a Feb. 7 public hearing, presenting statistics from a national 2004 study and a website, www.raidsonline.com.
She said within one-mile radius of the Lee’s Summit store near Tudor Road and Missouri 291 there were 549 crimes compared to 159 around the town’s Target store, from February 2012 and December of 2012.
She cited a national study, done 2006, by a coalition called WakeUpWalMart.com, “anchored” by the United Food & Commercial Workers, which was founded to “change” Wal-Mart.
The study, using police reports, said the average Wal-Mart store in the study (551 stores, or 15 percent of the stores open in 2004) had an average of 269 “calls for service,” i.e. a police response. A call for service doesn’t always mean a crime.
The total number of police incidents reported for three Missouri stores in the sample averaged 342. She said the Lee’s Summit store averaged 400 (calls for service).
That study also compared the average number of police incidents of a sample of 32 “high incident” Wal-Mart stores compared to 30 Target stores that were within 10 miles of those Wal-Marts. The study said the number 2004 incidents averaged 770 at Wal-Mart stores compared to 170 for the Target stores.
Lee’s Summit Police Chief Joe Piccinini, after a request by a council member, gave his interpretation. Piccinini focused on recent Lee’s Summit records for the Wal-Mart store.
He said one reason for the higher rate of reported crimes than Target, or Macy’s, or other Lee’s Summit big-box stores is the greater efforts of security the chain uses to catch shoplifters. Piccinini said Wal-Mart is simply more aggressive in apprehending shoplifters and then calling Lee’s Summit officers to arrest and prosecute offenders.
Wal-Mart, open 24-hours daily, also has more traffic than the other locations, he said.
Piccinini said in 2012 the Wal-Mart store or parking lot had 683 calls for service, but that could range from taking a report of a parking lot accident to an arrest for a serious crime. Crimes reported were 250, about 70 percent of them shoplifting.
In 2011 there were 618 calls for services and 175 crimes.
Serious crimes, assault, robbery or sex offenses, were less than .05 percent.
“That rings true, year after year, for that particular Wal-Mart,” Piccinini said.
Councilmember Ed Cockrell asked Piccinini how the high call service rate for neighborhoods around Missouri 291 and Tudor relates to the store. Piccinini said he didn’t attribute that to Wal-Mart store.
“It was a high call for service rate when Wal-Mart was on the other side of the city,” Piccinini said.
Riggs said in an email, “I was relieved by the information that the Police Chief presented in regards to serious crime. It cannot be ignored, however, the contrast in reported police incidents between the areas that I compared.
There were 549 incidents during the reporting period for the 1-mile radius surrounding the Lee’s Summit Wal-Mart compared with 158 incidents within a 1-mile radius surrounding the Lee’s Summit Target. It should also be noted that the 1-mile radius surrounding Target includes 49 other businesses including six restaurants with bars. This information was taken from Raids Online and I find these statistics difficult to ignore.”