Businesses across the country have been battered by crime this year, including retail behemoth Walmart. As shoppers flock to stores this holiday season, even Walmart’s CEO warned this month that the uptick in crimes need to end or consumers could see higher prices and even stores shutting down.
“Theft is an issue. It’s higher than what it has historically been,” Walmart CEO Doug McMillon told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” earlier this month. He added that if the crime wave is not halted soon and if prosecutors don’t bring charges against shoplifters, “prices will be higher, and/or stores will close.”
Crime has weighed heavily on retailers across the country this year, ballooning to a $100 billion problem, the National Retail Federation reported earlier this year. Walmart competitor Target reported this year that shoplifting incidents have increased 50% year over year, causing $400 million in losses.
Some criminals, however, have gotten even more creative and bolder than shoplifting just a few items in well-known and relied upon stores such as Walmart, reports show.
This month, a pair of Pennsylvania residents were busted by police for participating in a multi-state Walmart crime spree that has left the store with at least $25,000 in losses.
Police were called to a Walmart location in Clearfield, Pennsylvania, on Dec. 5 and arrested 37-year-old Tammi Koch, who is accused of repeatedly filling shopping carts with items ranging from baby clothes to computer accessories and brazenly walking out the doors of the stores. Police also arrested 21-year-old John Setser in the scheme, and authorities say there are other suspects in the case.
Koch would allegedly fill a shopping cart with goods, then pass the cart off to Sester in the self-checkout line to subvert security at the stores and then simply walk out with the merchandise.
In another case last month, a couple managed to confuse a Walmart cashier and stole more than $6,000 in merchandise and gift cards, according to authorities. They allegedly went to the checkout line with a cart full of expensive merchandise, and tricked the cashier into believing they paid by using multiple credit cards and then asked the cashier to use the “cash” button to ostensibly make a credit card work. The sale was then rung up as a cash payment so that no card was charged.
In Texas, a man described as a “magician” by local police managed to steal $2,700 from Walmart cashiers with “a quick-change scheme” in two separate incidents in January and February.
The scheme is when criminals use large bills for inexpensive products at checkout, and when the cashier hands back the change, the criminal will slip some of the money into their pocket and tell the cashier they miscounted. The cashier will then recount the money and make up the difference that the thief has already taken.
Walmart employees and customers have recently pointed to self-checkout lanes as helping fuel the theft surges. Dishonest people are reportedly using the lack of supervision at self-checkout lanes to slip unpaid merchandise into their carts and walking out of the stores.
“Theft is horrible at my store,” an anonymous Walmart employee in Spokane, Washington, told Insider this month. “If corporate actually visited at the store level and spoke with actual employees that deal with the theft, they might see how to fix the problem.
“They are converting stores to more self-checkouts with less employees. Self-checkout is where most theft happens.”
A Walmart representative told Insider the store is “continually exploring effective ways to protect merchandise, keep prices low and provide a safe environment for the millions of customers we serve weekly.”
Thefts aren’t the only crimes that unfold at Walmarts.
There have been at least three shootings at Walmart locations in the last month, including a mass shooting carried out by a Walmart employee.
Chesapeake, Virginia, Walmart supervisor Andre Bing shot and killed six employees at the store in November. The big box store had investigated Bing two years prior to the tragedy for his odd behavior.
“Andre did a lot of weird things,” former co-worker Nathan Sinclair said, according to the New York Post. “Andre was an aggressive person.”
Days after the shooting in Virginia, a 17-year-old boy was fatally shot in a Walmart parking lot.
On Dec. 7, shots rang out at a suburban Atlanta Walmart near the store’s automotive repair center. Two groups of people reportedly got into a dispute at the Walmart, leading to one person getting shot.
A security consultant and former police chief, Mike Jones, told WRIC following the fatal shooting of the 17-year-old in Virginia that “parking lots are the Wild West of the retail market.”
“You need to be very careful when you go in there, especially this time of year,” Jones said. “Take those extra few seconds to look around. Familiarize yourself with your environment and who and what is out there.”
Fox News Digital reached out to Walmart about its security measures, but did not receive a response by time of publication.
Walmart has a slew of security measures in place to prevent theft and violence, according to a review of its website. The company has teams of security analysts who work to identify threats and vulnerabilities in their stores, as well as investigators who look into crime and fraud and security risk managers who assess the stores.
“We’ve got safety measures, security measures that we’ve put in place by store location. I think local law enforcement being staffed and being a good partner is part of that equation, and that’s normally how we approach it,” Walmart CEO McMillon added in his interview with CNBC.
The holiday season is often the most bustling time of year for retailers, with Walmart posting its largest-ever holiday season sales last year at more than $150 billion. This year, U.S. consumer sales rose 6% year-over-year during the week of Black Friday for Walmart.