Walmart’s Out-of-Control Crime Problem Is Driving Police Crazy
Policies and actions matter.
There’s nothing inevitable about the level of crime at Walmart. It’s the direct, if unintended, result of corporate policy. Beginning as far back as 2000, when former CEO Lee Scott took over, an aggressive cost-cutting crusade led many stores to deteriorate. The famed greeters were removed, taking away a deterrent to theft at the porous entrances and exits. Self-checkout scanners replaced many cashiers. Walmart added stores faster than it hired employees. The company has one worker for every 524 square feet of retail space, a 19 percent increase in space per employee from a decade ago.
In terms of profit, all this has worked: Sales per employee in the U.S. have grown 23 percent in the past decade, to $236,804. For criminals, however, the cutbacks were like sending out a message that no one at Walmart cared, no one was watching, and no one was likely to catch you.
Fixing the problem comes down to money. When McMillon became CEO, he established an ambitious program to fix up long-neglected stores, starting with making them cleaner and stocking them better. Then, in early 2015, came a push to crack down on shoplifting. Experts say that should have additional public safety benefits: Less petty crime typically means less violent crime.