Port Richey police says nearly half of the city's crime is coming from its local Walmart, and the agency has come up with a game plan to combat the problem.
Police say 46 percent of Port Richey’s crime happens at the Walmart on U.S. 19 and Ridge Road. That’s four out of every 10 crimes. Police are getting called out to the store two times a day on average.
Customer Ashleigh Sellick said she's seen her share of that crime.
“We’ve seen a woman stealing stuff when she had a little baby in the cart,” she said.
That’s not all Sellick has seen.
“People come right up to your door ask you for change, ask you for money," she said. "I hold pepper spray in my car right in the little slot.”
Capt. Bill Ferguson is sick of it.
“We have some problems with shoplifting, pick-pocketing, some of the cars are broken into," he said. "We do have some domestic incidences, and some road-rage incidents in the parking lot."
Surveillance from the store says it all, which police say shows lots of shoplifting.
There is also video of an incident where a 77-year-old woman got into an argument with a man over a parking spot. The argument escalated and she decided to ram him with her car and drive with him on the hood through the parking lot.
“We see several people we’ve arrested four or five times,” Ferguson said.
What the department would like to see is employees helping to catch repeat offenders before they enter the store.
“They have a security director there and his evaluations are based on upon how affective they are at catching shoplifting, so we have competing interests here, we want to prevent crime, and he’s trying to look for arrests," Ferguson said.
Police met with Walmart managers and came up with a game plan. Officers now do a walk-through of the store on the hour. It also does parking lot patrols.
Shoppers say the difference has been noticeable.
“I’ve seen the police around a lot, which I’m glad that they are at least catching some things that are going wrong,” said customer Donna Carder.
Police say in the last two weeks crime has reduced only slightly. They hope the crime rate will go down significantly within the next six months.
At that time, they will re-evaluate the plan to see if it’s working. If not, the agency will meet again with Walmart officials to try another plan.
We spoke with Walmart about the issue. The company said it wants to continue to work with Port Richey police to keep the crimes from being attempted at its stores.
“Unfortunately criminal activity such as shoplifting is a challenge all retailers deal with," Walmart said in a statement. "Our asset protection team does a great job in identifying people who break the law in our stores which demonstrates that Walmart is the wrong place to attempt these crimes. And while Walmart is effective at detecting these crimes, we will continue to collaborate with local police to focus on crime prevention.”