PHOENIX AZ May 23 2017 - There were union reps, local and state lawmakers and community groups. They chanted and marched from city hall to Phoenix Police Headquarters, a building that they say should be named 'Walmart Security Headquarters.' The rally was organized by 'Making Change at Walmart,' a group critical of the retail giant.
"Walmart uses the local police for the first call for items that are sometimes less than $5 because they refuse to put the number of employees on the floor to service the customers, as well as hire appropriate security," said Randy Parraz, director for Making Change at Walmart.
And not all of the calls are for shoplifters dashing for the door. Just here in the Valley in the past year, there was a shootout with police in a Chandler Walmart and a shooting involving two men at a Glendale Walmart.
The majority of incidents at the Bell Road and 19th Avenue location appear to be minor, but Parraz said it's still a problem.
"So at a time when local communities are fighting for resources, for someone walking out with a five-dollar or two-dollar item they can't be calling 911," he said.
"No retailer is immune to the challenge of crime," Walmart said in a statement about Parraz's claims regarding police calls. "We’re encouraged by a 35% reduction in calls to law enforcement agencies nationwide, on average, since we began implementing Restorative Justice and other crime deterrence programs."
In an email, Phoenix police said some of the calls may be people using Walmart as a point of reference when they call for assistance, and all of the calls may not be for an incident actually at the store. Officials also added, "All of the Phoenix-based Walmarts work closely with Phoenix police to ensure a positive relationship is maintained."
The group will take the tour to Albuquerque next. The tour ends on June 2 at the Walmart shareholder's meeting in Arkansas.