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Walmart Chooses Profit over Customer Safety

Miami premise liability lawyers know that Walmart measures everything. They know their numbers. Consider this:

  • Sales per Walmart employee is $236,804 – a 23% increase over the last decade
  • It has more than 1 million retail workers on full-time and part-time shifts.
  • There is one Walmart worker for each 524 square feet of space in retail – a 19% increase over the past decade.
  • Walmart’s profit in 2015 was approximately $14 billion.

A recent expose detailed the Walmart crime problem.  “Walmart’s Out-of-Control Crime Problem Is Driving Police Crazy – The retailer’s aggressive cost cutting has unintended consequences” was published by Bloomberg Businessweek in August 2016. The article focused in part on a particular Tulsa Police Department officer nicknamed “Officer Walmart” by his colleagues because of how much time he spends responding to calls at Walmart.

In the article, the authors analyzed police reports and media reports concerning crimes at Walmart. In the first eight months of 2016 more than 200 violent crimes took place at the nation’s 4500 Walmart stores. The estimated total criminal acts including shoplifting and retail theft are expected to be in the hundreds of thousands.

In Tulsa, the police were called to the four Walmarts nearly 2000 times in 2015. In comparison in the same year, the Tulsa Police were called to the four local Target stores around three hundred times. These numbers are not local to Tulsa. This is happening all over the country.

Walmart’s Impact on Public Safety

When you look at the numbers, it is clear that Walmart’s choices concerning crime prevention are impacting the public safety. Police departments’ budgets and staffing are affected by Walmart’s decision to offload its security and crime prevention obligations on local law enforcement.

If a reasonable person looks at Target or shopping malls and compares the visible security with what Walmart offers it is clear that Walmart chooses profit over customer safety and crime prevention. Walmart could do more but that would affect the bottom line.

If Walmart hired more security, it would help the situation. The typical rate for off-duty, uniformed police is around $35 per hour. If Walmart hired 12 hours of police coverage each day it would cost a little more than $150,000 per year per store. Multiplied by Walmart’s 3500 Supercenters the cost would come to half billion dollars per year. That would be less than 5% of Walmart’s profit in 2015.

What we do know is that Walmart sets a security budget for each store based on a crime index. The database they use is not shared. Walmart conducts regular audits of criminal activity for their stores and adjusts the security budget and risk scores for each store. But again, Walmart does not willingly provide the risk score.

Walmart’s Duty to Protect

Every retail store like Walmart has a duty to protect its customers from violent crime on its premises. Under Florida law, this area of the law is called premise liability. In order to prevail, the plaintiff must show that the violent crime was reasonably foreseeable. To do this, plaintiffs and their premise liability lawyers need the history of violent crimes at the Walmart store where the injury occurred.

Under a public records request, a plaintiff can request crime reports for a particular location for local law enforcement. But don’t count on Walmart providing anything.

In a typical premise liability case against Walmart involving victims of violent crimes, the Walmart defense lawyers will argue that the company had no way to foresee the criminal act and that they did everything they could reasonably do to keep the customers safe. But Walmart fights to keep its crime database secret.

Walmart claims its database is propriety information and would place the company at financial risk if it became public knowledge. Even when information is provided, it is usually subject to a confidentiality order. It is an ongoing battle.

It takes a lot of effort to hold Walmart accountable but it isn’t impossible. So long as Walmart offloads its crime prevention and customer safety on local law enforcement, they will continue to have premise liability lawsuits filed against them.

Walmart Injury Lawyers Serving Miami

The Miami personal injury lawyers at the Wolfson Law Firm litigate cases against Walmart. If you were injured at any Walmart, we can help. Feel free to call us at (305) 285-1115 for your confidential consultation.