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November 20, 2013

Why are shoplifters flocking to this one Wal-Mart?

The Denver Post had an interesting story this week about a Denver-area Wal-Mart that appears to be the city's the most shoplifter-friendly store. Sadie Gurman's entertaining lede gives the reader a sense of how bad things have gotten:

In one week alone at the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Stapleton, two men walked off with a paintball gun, another tried to steal a futon and a pair of pillows, and a fourth told a Denver police officer he had no receipt for the 97 items in his shopping cart because "Aw . . . Um. . . . Because I didn't pay for any of this."

That last guy gets credit for honesty, though I wish he would have tried harder to come up with an excuse — something like "I won them in a raffle." Anyway, the Wal-Mart in question reported 283 shoplifting incidents over the past year, 179 more than the second-most-shoplifted-from merchant, a downtown Rite-Aid. Denver police even parked unmanned squad cars in the Wal-Mart lot, in hopes of deterring thieves. The tactic failed miserably: "At the end of the day we pick up the car, and it's been spit on and kicked, and you can only cry wolf so often," a morose-sounding cop told Gurman.

How did this particular Wal-Mart become a shoplifter's delight? It's not necessarily because the store is in a crime-ridden neighborhood — the Post reports that the Home Depot down the street has reported one-tenth as many shoplifting incidents over the same time period. The Post notes Wal-Mart's "recent abandonment of zero-tolerance shoplifting policies, and the removal of door greeters who would look out for thieves" as possible reasons why theft is on the rise. But Wal-Mart abandoned its zero-tolerance shoplifting policies back in 2006, which hardly counts as recent — and, anyway, these broad corporate policy changes wouldn't explain why crime is spiking at this one particular store.

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