When Walmart Comes to Town, So Does Crime

When Walmart muscles its way into a new town, crime tends to rise, according to new study.

Photo Credit: Niloo/Shutterstock

Thinking about popping over to your local Walmart to pick up some Valentine's Day flowers or chocolates?

You should know that when Walmart muscles its way into a new town, crime tends to rise, according to a study published in the British Journal of Criminology. 

Scott Wolfe and David Pyrooz found that in the 1990s, when crime nationallly was declining, the "growth of the company stunted crime declines" in counties where the megastore opened its doors when compared to counties where it did not. 

Wolfe explained in a press statement, "If the corporation built a new store, there were 17 additional crimes and 2 additional violent crimes for every 10,000 persons in a county."

The study found that Walmart's effect on a county's crime rate usually continued over a decade after the store had opened. 

Walmart spokesperson Dianna Gee disputed the findings.

"This is a flawed study that relies on outdated information and fails to present the facts about Walmart's positive impact on communities," she said to The Huffington Post. "The truth is the presence of Walmart has significant benefit to consumers, homeowners, and taxpayers. Families save money, property values increase, and millions of dollars in taxes are paid to local governments helping fund education, public safety, and infastructure improvements."

Pyrooz, the other author of the study, said that the important variable was where Walmart was allowed to build.

"Counties with more social capital--citizens able and willing to speak about the best interests of the community--tend to have lower crime rates," Pyrooz said in the release. These also happen to be the towns where communities are more effective at mobilizing to block the construction of new Walmarts. "Counties with more crime may have less social capital, and, therefore, less ability to prevent Walmart from building."

Of course, crime rates aren't the only factor influencing social capital. Other studies have found that socio-economic variables, such as economic disadvantage, race and lower education levels all correlate with low levels of civic engagement and less social capital that could be used to mobilize a community to prevent a Walmart's construction.

It's no secret that Walmart intentionally seeks to expand into some of the poorest areas of the country. With the Wolfe study, it can be postulated that Walmart's profit model also depends on keeping its customers disenfranchised and disconnected from the communities in which they live. 

Aaron Cantú is an investigator for the Marijuana Arrest Research Project and an independent journalist based in Brooklyn. Follow him on Twitter @aaronmiguel_
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