RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Some of the busiest city blocks for Raleigh police have something in common: There’s a Walmart there.
Four of the seven blocks where the most Raleigh Police Department incident reports originated during the past three months each contain a Walmart Supercenter, a CBS17.com investigation found. And year-over-year comparisons show those blocks consistently ranking among the most active for police.
Data for exact addresses is unavailable because the department’s reports get no more specific than individual city blocks.
Both Walmart and the Raleigh Police Department say any correlation is merely a reflection of the high number of people who visit those stores. The more foot traffic, the more potential for criminal activity.
The police department “is aware of the impact of large retail locations on calls for service numbers,” RPD spokeswoman Donna-Maria Harris said, adding that it has “generally been known that big-box stores and large retail stores can drive crime numbers and calls for service in some areas.”
But Deborah Weisel, an assistant professor in North Carolina State University’s school of international and public affairs who has researched crime and policing, calls the crime issues at Walmarts “a recurring problem.”
“They make it easy to steal at Walmart,” she said.
The average Walmart Supercenter covers 178,000 square feet, according to the company’s most recent Form 10-K filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Many are open 24 hours and “have the products that tend to be shoplifted” like meat, baby formula and clothing, Weisel said.
But the stores lack barriers to shoplifting and other crime, she said, adding that it appears to be “Walmart’s business model not to prevent the crimes from happening but to pass this cost along to taxpayers (by) deploying police officers to handle folks that they apprehend for shoplifting.”
Walmart spokesman Scott Pope said the company does hire third-party security guards in some stores while also bringing in police officers to patrol during peak hours and deploying “Lot Cops” in some parking lots. Those devices, equipped with cameras and flashing lights, are designed to provide a police presence and deter crime, Pope said.
According to data collected from Raleigh’s open data portal, there were 9,572 police incident reports filed from last November through January. The block mentioned most frequently in those reports was the 10000 block of Glenwood Avenue – home to the Walmart Supercenter in Brier Creek, one of only two Walmarts in the city limits that are open 24 hours.
In all, 103 police reports were filed for that block – an average of more than one per day — and roughly four-fifths of those were for larceny or shoplifting. There were 43 reports filed from there in November — the most in any single block in Raleigh at any time during that span.
It continued an annual trend: 84 incident reports originated from that block during the same three months in 2018-19, with 78 coming a year earlier and 68 the year before that — all city highs for those time spans.
Two other blocks with Supercenters each had more than 50 police reports – the 1700 block of New Hope Church Road in north Raleigh, and the 8000 block of Town Drive in the northeast corner of the city. There were 42 calls for larceny or shoplifting on Town Drive, where the store closes at 1 a.m., and 36 more on New Hope Church Road, where the store is open until midnight.
The 4400 block of New Bern Avenue – home to another Supercenter – had 48 incidents reported, with 28 of those involving some form of larceny. That store closes at midnight.
Two other blocks in the top 10 – the 7900 block of Old Wake Forest Road and the 5900 block of Triangle Town Boulevard – are near the shopping centers in the city’s northeast corner, the Triangle Town Center mall and the nearby Walmart Supercenter on Town Drive.
There were only 12 incidents reported from the block containing the Crabtree Valley Mall, which at more than 1.3 million square feet is one of the largest indoor malls in the Southeast. Spokeswoman Mindy Hamlin says the mall has operated its own police and security force since 1991.
Data from Durham show a high number of reports — but not the most — came from the blocks containing the city’s two Supercenters. A total 142 reports came from the 6900 block of Fayetteville Road, where the shopping centers at Southpoint are located.
The 1500 block of Glenn School Road — home to a Supercenter in northeast Durham — had 56 reports to rank fifth, while the block containing the Supercenter at New Hope Commons ranked seventh with 51 calls.