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Shoplifting at Walmart an issue, but not a burden for KPD

Matthew Lane • Updated Sep 6, 2016 at 12:09 PM

KINGSPORT — For the first six months of the year, the Kingsport Police Department responded to more than 500 calls for service at the city’s two Walmart supercenters and one Walmart neighborhood market.

And though the total number of calls for the year will likely top 1,000, Kingsport Police Chief David Quillin said the crime at Walmart is not causing an undue burden on the department.

Bloomberg News recently featured an article about crime at Walmart, which noted how cost-cutting measures (like self-checkout lines and removing the door greeters) have affected the number of thefts and other offenses taking place at stores across the country.

“I don't think it’s any great secret that certain areas of the country, especially jurisdictions with multiple Wal-mart locations, are reporting a huge amount of manpower hours spent at those locations,” Quillin said. “For us, it doesn’t appear we get as many calls as your typical Wal-mart.”

If you break down the number of calls the KPD receives from one of the three Walmarts in town, the amount is less than two percent of the 62,000 to 63,000 calls the department receives all year.

Roughly half the calls are reports of theft or shoplifting with the remaining ones being a variety of crimes, including drugs, domestic violence and assault. Many of the shoplifters are repeat offenders, and naturally the state of the economy plays into the number of thefts taking place.

As far as shoplifting goes, Walmart is probably right there at the top of the list, Quillin said.

“We still have the same calls at some of the stores in the mall and some of the stores in the strip malls,” Quillin said. “I don’t think it’s nearly as much as we do at the Walmart stores.”

While police departments in other parts of the country are struggling with the volume of crime taking place at their respective Walmarts, Kingsport is not. The department has not placed extra patrols at the stores, though if is there is a particular concern or request at Walmart, or anywhere else for that matter, Quillin said the department would give extra protection as required.

“We probably go (to Walmart) more than anywhere else for shoplifting and theft calls, but we’re not feeling the burden as other places are,” Quillin said. “My opinion, for the most part it’s petty thefts, but they’re in business and we have to respond to calls for service. If that’s where we have to go, then that’s where we’ll go.”

In a statement emailed to the Times-News on Sept. 7, Betsy Harden with Wal-mart said: 

“In the coming weeks and months, we will continue our increased outreach to law enforcement across the country, as part of our ongoing commitment to meet our customer’s and associate’s expectations of a safe and enjoyable shopping experience,” Harden said. “The importance of this issue is recognized at the highest levels of the company and we are investing in people and technology to support our stores.”

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