Wal-Mart stores rack up thousands of SWFL police calls

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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Wal-Mart is known for its low prices, but the big-box retailer is also noteworthy for its high volume of reported crime.

From August 2015 through August 2016, police responded to 3,455 calls at Wal-Mart stores in Lee County. There were 1,495 police calls to Wal-Marts in Charlotte County and 1,261 in Collier County during that same span.

One Lee County store by itself elicited 1,232 calls.

“Being open 24 hours kind of promotes the environment for crimes of opportunity to occur,” said Chris Knotts, a former Collier County Sheriff’s Office deputy who now works for Naples Security Solutions, a private security firm.

Knotts and Mike Perl, the firm’s co-founder, believe that the store’s wide selection and self-checkout option contribute to the volume of crime. Regardless, his concern is that it all adds up to an overuse of resources that drains taxpayer money.

“For a minor crime, now you’re talking hours to write a report, if there’s an arrest now you have to transport, so you’re taking an officer off the road that can be responding to you know, more important types of calls,” Knotts said.

A Wal-Mart spokesperson said the company is investing in technology and staff to help combat the issue. The chain is also working on a restorative justice program in which first-time low-risk offenders have the chance to participate in an education course in lieu of prosecution, an executive said.

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