Spirit of St. Louis – Pick Your Charity, Pick Your Car

Police often respond to one store more than any other – Walmart

ST. LOUIS, MO — A Fox Files investigation found Walmart demands much more attention from police departments, and often doesn't pay extra for that additional help.  We began our investigation after hearing the town of Raytown, Missouri tried declaring its Walmart a public nuisance.  Raytown hoped that would get their town more police power, since the Walmart there demanded so much help from police.

Here in the St. Louis area, it’s easy to find news in the crime archives.

“I heard three shots; boom, boom, boom,” one woman said after a deadly shooting and police pursuit at the Cahokia, Illinois Walmart in 2016.

“I'm trying to make sure I don't get shot,” someone else said.

Last month, the O’Fallon, Missouri Walmart locked down during a SWAT standoff with a gun-toting felon.

Even a reported shoplifting call can get crazy.  A suspect in the Maplewood, Missouri Walmart used a box cutter against officers.  Another Maplewood officer was nearly run over when two shoplifters sped off.  Maplewood Police are asking for your help to identify the suspects.  (picture at the bottom of this story)

“They were dead set on getting away and they did.  They drove over a curb, down a grass embankment,” Maplewood Police Chief Steve Kruse said.

The Maplewood Walmart has more than five times the police calls as any other Maplewood business  -- 1,472 call in a year.  Sam’s Club was a distant second with 271 calls.  Lowe’s had 245.

“We have had calls up there with a lot of drug use, you know, people that are intoxicated, car accidents where people have left the scene of the car accident," Kruse said. "When you've got that many people there, that's just the way it's going to be.”

In Shrewsbury, where Walmart gets a tax break, they also need more police help than anybody else.  Former Alderwoman Dee Wiecher fought that break in 2013.

“I don't understand why you'd want to give people money that already have money.  It doesn't make sense,” she said.

The Shrewsbury store is under a TIF, meaning services like schools, fire protection, and police may not get the same funding. Yet Shrewsbury had to hire more officers.

“I know they've hired at least two additional policemen because of the Walmart,” Wiecher said.

Shrewsbury reports 847 calls to its Walmart in a year's time.

At Gravois Bluffs, where Walmart and Target are neighbors, the St. Louis County Police Department reported responding to Walmart 1672 times in a year. Target had 265 reported calls. Gravois Bluffs was also under a TIF until October 2013.

The biggest user of police assistance, though not under a TIF, went to Wentzville's Walmart, which had 2,687 calls in a year. Their Target store?  Less than half that amount -- 1,033.

Why are the numbers so high at Walmart?  A spokesman said they "take every level of crime seriously, even if it's minimal."

Most calls to police are for shoplifting.

St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann has long criticized politicians who give tax breaks, like the example in Shrewsbury, because of the burden on public services like police.

“If Walmart doesn't pay its fair share, the rest of us end up paying," Ehlmann said.  "Police departments are going to respond because that's their job.”

Ehlmann points to Bridgeton's Walmart. It moved down the street for more tax breaks, with the help of a billionaire we all know.

“Oh, could take a cheap shot at Stan Kroenke,” Ehlmann said.

Fox 2 found Bridgeton's Walmart, which is under a TIF, had 1,265 calls in a year.  The nearby Target, not under a TIF, had 267 calls.

St. Louis is not alone in the strain on police.  Police departments use a Cottonwood, Arizona Walmart example for training.  A YouTube video shows a family of eight fighting with police in the Walmart parking lot.

Another video from South Carolina shows a woman speeding off backwards, taking two police officers with her as she hits a sign post.

Two weeks ago, two people were shot to death inside a Walmart in a Denver, Colorado suburb.

Crime reports are so widespread the Tampa Bay Times did a county by county breakdown showing the strain on police services.

A Walmart spokesman talked by phone and said the company is aware and has chosen to acknowledge this issue rather than ignore it.  The spokesman said it's investing in three things: people, technology, and programs.

He said Walmart is working to deter criminals. That's why you'll see someone checking receipts at the door.  He said they're also making it obvious they're watching, with things like cameras you can see inside. He added that their research shows police calls have already dropped since they began making changes last year.

Back in Maplewood, where Walmart was built without a TIF, Chief Kruse referred to that store a good partner.  He believes there's a reason for so many police calls -- lots of shoppers.

“We want to give them the best police service we can, and I know that they appreciate that, and that's why they work so closely with us," Kruse said. "When they're shopping at Walmart, they shop at other places. They go to eat at restaurants.”

County Executive Ehlmann also emphasized that Walmart shouldn't be who you blame if you're upset about locations like Bridgeton and Shrewsbury that gave tax breaks. He said it's the governments that are giving the incentives that should be challenged.

Police Calls to AreaWalmart Stores:

Police calls to Walmart and Target as reported by local police departments.  Some towns also provided a list of the locations where they respond most.

St. Louis County:

  • Walmart South County - 3270 Telegraph -  2052 calls
  • Target South County - 4250 Rusty Lane - 443 calls
  • Walmart Fenton - 653 Gravois Bluffs - 1672 calls
  • Target Fenton - 197 Gravois Bluffs - 265 calls

Arnold:

  •  Walmart - 2201 Michigan Ave - 503 calls  (Oct, 2, 2016-Oct. 1, 2017)
  • Target - 3849 Vogel Rd -  79  calls ( Oct., 2016-Sept. 2017)

Ballwin:

  • Target - 15025 Manchester Rd - 108 calls

Belleville:

  •  Walmart - 2608 Green Mount Commons - 384 calls (Sept. 2016- Sept 2017)
  • Target - 5601 Belleville Crossing - 99 calls (Sept. 2016-Sept. 2017)

Brentwood:

  • Target - 25 Brentwood Promenade - 409 calls
  • Home Depot - 1603 Hanley Rd - 234 calls
  • Dierbergs - 8450 Eager Rd - 583 calls
  • Best Buy - 8350 Eager Rd - 158 calls

Bridgeton:

  • Wal Mart - 11900 St. Charles Rock Rd - 1,265 calls
  • Target - 12275 St. Charles Rock Rd - 267 calls

Chesterfield:

  • Walmart - 100 THF Blvd - 91 calls (Including 3 calls where four police officers suffered injuries)
  • Target - 40 THF Blvd. - 27 calls

Collinsville:

  • Walmart - 1040 Collinsville Crossing Blvd - 2031 calls
  • Walmart Neighborhood Market - 70 calls

Eureka:

  • Walmart - 131 Eureka Towne Center - 606 calls
  • Six Flags - 4900 Six Flags Rd - 347 calls

Ferguson:

  • Walmart - 10741 W. Florissant Ave - 628 calls

Florissant:

  • Walmart - 3390 N Highway 67 - 483 calls
  • Target - 2341 N Highway 67 - 156 calls

Glen Carbon, Il:

  • Walmart - 400 Junction Dr - 453 calls
  • Sam’s Club - 5 Illini Dr - 83 calls
  • Midwest Petroleum - 4001 S. State Rt. 159 - 83 calls

Granite City:

  • Walmart -  285 calls (Oct. 2, 2016-Oct.5, 2017)

Highland, Il:

  • Highland Walmart - 186 calls
  • Highland High School - 82 calls
  • Circle K - 76 calls

Kirkwood, Mo:

  • Walmart - 1202 S. Kirkwood rd - 786 calls
  •  Target - 1042 S. Kirkwood Rd - 214 calls

Maplewood:

  • Walmart - 1900 Maplewood Commons - 1,472 calls
  • Sam's Club - 2100 Maplewood Commons - 271 calls
  • Lowes - 2300 Maplewood Commons - 245 calls

Lake St. Louis:

  • Walmart - 6100 Ronald Reagan Dr - 321 calls
  • St. Joe’s Hospital - 178 calls
  • Victoria’s Secret - 67 calls

Shrewsbury:

  • Walmart - 7437 Watson Rd - 847 calls
  • Our Lady of Life Retirement home - 7655 Watson Rd - 200 calls

St. Charles:

  • Walmart - 2897 Memorial Pkwy - 808 calls

Warrenton:

  • Walmart - 518 calls

Wentzville:

  • Walmart - 2,687 calls
  • Target - 1,033 calls

Wood River:

  • Walmart - 610 Wesley Rd - 377 calls