The IACP/Laura and John Arnold Foundation Leadership in Law Enforcement Research Award recognizes law enforcement agencies that demonstrate excellence in conducting and using research to improve police operations and public safety. The goal of this award program is to promote the establishment of effective partnerships among law enforcement agencies and researchers.
2017 Winner - Arlington, Texas, Police Department
The Arlington Police Department and the Walmart Corporation, collaborated to form a new initiative called, The Walmart Restorative Justice Program. Little did either party know, but the future results of this partnered effort would not only exceed Arlington’s goals as a police department, but would drastically shift Walmart’s perspective on shoplifting prevention. As overall crime rates in Arlington, Texas decreased annually from 2010 to 2014, some specific areas increased. Theft was on the increase and a large portion included the number of shoplifting occurrences at the three Walmart stores within Arlington.
From a research perspective, having responded to 7,789 theft and shoplifting calls for service citywide, 2,442 occurred specifically between the city’s three Walmart locations. Arlington averages 14,000 arrests per year, with Walmart holding 7% of those arrests. Arlington officers, detectives, and crime analysts held several meetings at the Walmart locations regarding the increase in theft and shoplifting offenses to determine the most effective way to reduce these offenses. After reviewing the past 5 years of data, Arlington officers determined that the conventional strategies that focused on offender detection and crime prevention were unsuccessful. Research revealed that the local law enforcement agencies in the region and throughout the U.S. shared similar concerns over the lack of partnership with Walmart in addressing the alarming increase in calls for service at their stores. In Tampa, Florida, law enforcement logged nearly 16,800 calls in one year to Walmart stores in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco, and Hernando counties. This approximated to about two calls an hour, every hour, every day. Something had to be done.
To affect the crime trend, from a public/private approach, Assistant Chief Kolbye engaged Walmart Corporation and collectively initiated and implemented a multifaceted plan of action that would change both the police department’s and Walmart’s philosophy on crime prevention. Arlington partnered with the Walmart Corporation to form a task force calling it the “Walmart Restorative Justice Initiative”. The initiative focused on rehabilitation and improving long-term behavior of offenders to reduce recidivism rates.
The initiative consists of a unique, eight-step approach:
- “More at the Door” placed a customer host equipped with a radio and asset protection vest at every main entry/exit point to check receipts.
- “Signs Do Matter” utilized joint police/Walmart signage to let the public know that shoplifters would be prosecuted.
- “Enhanced Public Monitoring” installed TV mirroring screens in identified aisles, self-check outs, and entry/exit points.
- “Magnetic Sensors” were placed at exit points and when triggered, activated a notification on the monitors stating, “Recording in Process”.
- “Criminal Trespass Warning” Arlington officers issued these warning notices to repeat theft and shoplifting suspects.
- “First-Time Offenders Program” allowed eligible participants to resolve criminal conduct in a civil capacity. The program focused on rehabilitation, improving long term behavior and reduction of recidivism rates by requiring completion of online courses and civil restitution.
- “Mark Unit Deployment” Arlington Police would rotate unattended patrol cars in the parking lot as a deterrent.
- “Officer Visibility” Officers were deployed on foot patrols, bike patrols and occasionally inside the store.
This program was so successful that is has been implemented in over 1,000 other Walmart stores and continues to grow. Thus, creating a blueprint for other law enforcement agencies to use as they partner with Walmart to address the shared concerns of excessive resource hours and time spent on calls for service.
Using community policing practices as a foundation coupled with the problem-solving components of geographic policing, the agency analyzed that the conventional strategies for theft and shoplifting calls for service that presumably focused on offender detection and crime prevention were ineffective.
The commitment to reevaluate the philosophy of Walmart's asset protection program by their corporate leadership is a testament that public/private cooperation is possible and beneficial for everyone. Another lesson learned encompasses the understanding that enforcement is not solely incumbent on arrests, rather exercising opportunities to serve as change agents to community issues and resident quality of life concerns. Walmart Corporation added the unique component of offering employment to some successful participants of the civil program. The Walmart Restorative Justice Program is an illustration of how law enforcement can be one piece of a solution, but that a community response is required to take ownership of the community problems.
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