Wal-Mart Looking To Reduce Excessive Calls For OKC Police Response
OKLAHOMA CITY - America's largest retailer is also one of Oklahoma City's largest callers for police service. News 9 poured over nearly two years of 911 calls to five metro Wal-Mart stores and found among them, police responded on average, nine times a day. News 9 dug even deeper to find out why this store is a hotbed for crime and police responses.
Thousands of calls filter through the Oklahoma City 911 center, operators standing by to dispatch help where needed. However, there's a common location OKC police officers find they roll into more times than not – Wal-Mart.
"They're very random, we get a lot of shoplifters," said Capt. Paco Balderrama with the Oklahoma City Police Department. "We do get assaults and disturbances."
News 9 looked over nearly two years of 911 records for five metro Wal-Mart stores and found officers responded to just over 6,000 calls total.
"I was surprised that it was that high," said Capt. Balderrama.
Here's the breakdown of approximate police responses at Wal-Mart from January 2015 through September of 2016:
- 2000 W. Memorial - 789
- 7800 N.W. Expressway - 630
- 1801 Belle Isle - 1,310
- 6100 W. Reno - 1,678
- 100 E. I-240 - 1,762
The calls ran the gamut, from something as trivial as a lost cell phone to more dangerous crimes like a shooting last month at the Wal-Mart located at I-240 and Santa Fe.
Here is a breakdown of some of those offenses among all five stores:
- Assault with a deadly weapon: 22
- Armed robbery: 13
- Assault: 33
- Auto burglary: 76
- Disturbance: 612
- Larceny: 920
- Shoplifting: 2,107
News 9 compared the number to three nearby Target stores - during the same time, January 2015 through September of 2016, where police responded to almost 700 calls total.
- 5400 N. May - 299
- 8315 N. Rockwell - 119
- 13924 N. Penn - 219
Both stores showed shoplifting as the biggest problem.
"Pretty soon, you're gonna [sic] get pretty frustrated and pretty tired of responding to that individual store so many times for so many different things," said Capt. Balderrama.
Jack Sink previously worked in loss prevention for Wal-Mart and says the retailer is unique.
"Crime follows the numbers," Sink said. "Their customers through the door is so high compared to other retailers."
Along with the volume of customers, he also believes the company's lack of staff and focus on enforcing crime rather than preventing it also drives the numbers.
"A shoplifter will look up at a camera system, it has no deterrent value because the belief is A, either the camera systems are all dummies or B, nobody is watching them."
News 9 contacted Wal-Mart and received this statement through an email:
"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." Anne Hatfield, Wal-Mart spokesperson
One way the company is trying to reduce the need for police resources is through its Restorative Justice Program, which allows first time shoplifting offenders to complete an educational program instead of being arrested and charged. The program was implemented in July at the five metro Wal-Mart stores News 9 investigated. Wal-Mart says in just six months, police calls have already been reduced 30 percent.
"I think it's positive," Sink said. "It keeps them out of the court system and it keeps them out of the police department's call log."
Wal-Mart told News 9 the company is also looking to put more associates on the sales floor and at the front entrances as an additional deterrent.