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Walmart catch and release policy

When it comes to personal defense, situational awareness saves lives. Avoid stupid places, stupid people and stupid activities and you’ll avoid stupid prizes the great majority of the time.

In that vein, we have covered how big box store parking lots act as magnets for crime. Walmart stores in particular face pressure from local police agencies to reduce the staggering number of police calls to their stores. At the same time, they face internal pressures to limit merchandise theft.

Do you need another reason to carry? Here’s one:

In Peoria, Illinois, fresh signage suggests a new Walmart policy to “apprehend” shoplifters instead of prosecuting them. This may help reduce the number of calls to police. At the same time, the new policy may also serve to make the stores more inviting to thieves. And it goes without saying that most law-abiding folks don’t like the crime that follows criminals.

Sam Walton’s chain originally took a hard-nosed approach to shoplifters. The stores advertised that fact prominently in dressing room areas and restrooms. Signs like this one dotted stores across the nation.

As the stores grew in size and number, so too did calls to police. Walmart found itself facing ever-increasing pressure from municipalities complaining of the number of service calls to the stores.

In 2006, the company reportedly rolled out a new policy for petty thieves. First time shoplifters, ages 18-65, would not be prosecuted for stealing less than $25 worth of merchandise. And the calls to police continued to grow.

With shoplifting eclipsing employee thefts, Wally World seems to have gone soft on shrinkage. In fact, these new signs replacing old ones suggest a full-on retreat.

Store management had no comment about the new signage. What’s more, they didn’t wish to comment on Walmart’s story policy for dealing with shoplifters, on or off the record.

But the new verbiage says it all. Walmart now “apprehends” shoplifters instead of prosecuting them. How does that policy work in the wider world? “Catch and release” only made America’s streets more dangerous for the law-abiding in the 1960s and 70s. From

From 1960-1980, per capita imprisonment for violent crimes fell from 738 to 227. In the same period, violent crime rates nationwide tripled.
Why does crime rise when criminals are released from prison early? Because they are likely to commit more crimes. 67.5% were re-arrested for new felonies or serious misdemeanors within three years.  Extrapolating, those released felons killed another 2,282 people.

Time will tell if Walmart’s new “apprehend and release” policy on shoplifters will make their stores more dangerous for the law-abiding as well.

The good news is that Walmart hasn’t retreated from its policy of allowing good guys to carry guns in any manner permitted by law.

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  1. I try and avoid Wally world if at all possible. However if you have to go I would recommend in the very early morning after sunrise for good visibility. Most thugs are sleeping off last nights hangover and in my experience the mornings are safe. That doesn’t mean I go in with my defenses down if you follow me.

    • Seemingly good advice to shop in the early morning light sunlight, but I have noticed a growing number of early morning – 4:30, 5:00 a,m, home invasion robberies lately. The doppers are getting desperate after a long night of partying and need to get more funds to continue.

      • I heard someone at one of the bedroom windows in my home at about 5 AM. I quietly opened the front door with one of my house gun in hand, a full size 10 MM, with a green laser sight mounted. That door has a direct view of the window being tampered with. AZ Castle Doctrine Laws allow me to shoot an intruder without fear of prosecution. I thought about that for a second. He saw the laser sight and fell on his face trying to get away. Later that morning I turned on my perimeter alarms to activate from 8PM to 7AM. It’s been weeks and no sign.

        If he had been holding a firearm, or attempted to reach in his pockets, the 10 MM would’ve punched some holes in this A-hole. I didn’t want to shoot the intruder in the back, while attempting to retreat. My lawyer said that was absolutely the best move to make given he was retreating and I could only shoot him in the backside. Had he made any threatening gestures, or moves, shoot until intruder is no longer a threat. Castle Doctrine:



        • James Allen Wyatt, Jr. Miss. State Univ. Class of 1961:
          Seriously, Sir, you must turn off your CAPSLOCK key if you wish people to read what you have to say. It is difficult for the eye to focus on, and the brain to decode, screeds written in ALLCAPS. This is why our written language has evolved with CAPS and lowercase in their appropriate places.

    • Yep, that is the time frame that I make visits to the Big Blue Box. False dawn to sun-up are good times. Creatures of the night have slunk off to their native soil and the spandex women of large portions have not yet crawled forth from their lairs.

  2. I’d hang up new signs that say anyone caught shoplifting is subject to penalties under Persian law, and then just for ha-has, issue turbans and oversized scimitars to the elderly greeters at the entrance.

  3. So then does this mean we get a new corporate police creation, a WalMart police force, authorized by their charter to use deadly force if necessary? My default position on this is laughter, as SIGNS are as effective at stopping violent intentions as registration NUMBERS are at stopping car crashes, or bullets, or anything really. The one area signs ARE proficient in, are GUN FREE ZONE signs that shout out the utter helplessness of all those within said areas are, thus they actually INCREASE the violence. So signs do work! Yay progress.

    Course a sign that reads, “steal from us and we will break your fingers, hands, toes, and feet, steal from us twice and we will move on to your legs, arms, and shoulders”, then perhaps the sign may be effective in reducing petty crimes.

    Just bring back the stocks, put them in front of Walmart, out by the “garden” section, 10 to 20 of them in a row, locked in for a week, no bathroom breaks, no timeouts, no privacy. Let the public see those who break the law. Before I get catcalls for promoting violence, I actually visit the zoo of Walmart from time to time, when they have a sale on cheap range ammo buckets, and I marvel at the specimens I see; but then, so they must also marvel at me!

    • Actually, most states do have laws that specifically allow merchants to detain/apprehend shoplifters. That also presumptively gives them the authority to use appropriate levels of escalating force to counter the thief’s resistance to apprehension. They can lock you in a windowless office, and probably transport you to the local police station if they so desired.

      I remember years ago hearing stories that Disney Company Security were arresting people on the streets of Orlando(not on Disney property) for the crime of selling their multi day passes if they decided to leave early. I never was able to verify if it was true or not, but given the relationship between Disney and the Orlando area, it wouldn’t surprise me.

      In Florida, any theft, including retail theft, where the item(s) value is $300.00 or greater is automatically charged as a felony, even a first offense.

      • “All right, I’m gonna give you a choice. You can either have the money and the hammer or you can walk out of here. You can’t have both. What do you want? “

      • Apprehend doesn’t imply a “catch and release” policy. All retail stores will try to apprehend a shoplifter and detain them until police arrive. I think the author is leaping to the wrong conclusion.

        • I agree. Apprehensions without a court appearance or turning the person of interest over to police is a litigation nightmare. Wally did not get this big by being stupid. Parking lots are opportunities for predators, just when we assume it is a safe time or place we are vulnerable. I’ll just carry and hope I never have to shoot someone stupid.

    • I firmly believe that, beginning at a very young age (I’ve seen children shoplift everything from cookies, to perfume, to Penthouse magazines), children should be publicly shamed/punished… and, from witnessing the parents attitudes, it would not hurt if they suffered the same treatment. The leftist idea that individuals are not responsible for what they do has eliminated any idea of guilt. In Wally World, the parents are often more guilty than the kids, actually opening up candy and such to quiet their screaming brats, and then stuffing the wrappers on the back of a shelf.

    • “All right, I’m gonna give you a choice. You can either have the money and the hammer or you can walk out of here. You can’t have both. What do you want? “

  4. If you can outrun law enforcement past 100 yards, generally their polyester pants will explode into flames from the friction of running.

  5. Could do what Kroger does and hire security for that purpose. They might think it’s cheaper to not hire security and just deal with a stealing, but according to what I’ve been told by corporate level Kroger employees and law enforcement, is that Kroger’s private security greatly reduces the amount of thefts from stores to the point it saves the company revenue.

  6. When I was a merchandiser, I had a store, small mom and pop shop that had a sign saying “all shoplifters will be beaten to a bloody pulp”

    Then on that same route I had another store , that when I went into the back stock they caught and had a shoplifter tied to a chair, they gave him the option to get hauled off by the cops or take a beating, he took the beating , guess he may have had warrants or something? That also a mom and pop shop,

  7. I avoid Wallyworld. But the wife and kids just went there. At least I’ve drummed into her to park for a quick getaway…and I don’t know whats going on. Sometimes armed guards-often not.

  8. Due to hip replacement surgery I have a Handicap placard for hanging on rear view mirror. Do I use it? Not at Walmart, don’t need to advise frail old woman status.

    • Clever. I usually feel safe in public because there are usually more likely victims around. It’s not a fool proof strategy on its own, but the way most people stagger around half distracted it’s low hanging fruit.

  9. I’m not sure I agree with the apprehend = no popo logic. Maybe I’m misreading.

    Anyway, those exit door people that want to look thru your stuff are a nuissance. If any of them gets confused and tries to apprehend me it won’t work either way and if it’s physical I’ll have the law on them for aggravated assault.

    • That’s exactly what I was looking through the comments for, to see whether that interpretation confused anyone else. The sign threatens fines and prison. How else would that be accomplished without prosecution? How is prosecution going to happen without apprehension?

      If anything, I took that sign to mean that Walmart won’t just cooperate with police on larger crime rings, the kind they discover away from from the store itself, but rather they would expand their response to apprehending shoplifters at the store and subjecting them to the the full criminal treatment.

      That would be different from what they’ve done in the past, where shoplifters would have to sign a document forever forfeiting their right to return to any Walmart. They’d get put in Walmart’s system and their I.D.s referenced any time they paid by check or card of any kind. If they ever returned, they’d be charged with the original crime and now trespassing. It was sort of Walmart’s own in-house probation program. I recall it being a thing back in the 1990s.

      • Yes, it seems like we are all jumping to conclusions. The author doesn’t know what is meant by “apprehend” but that doesn’t stop him from going off on Walmart.

    • Yeah the bag checkers have no authority to do anything if you walk by them- you purchased the items, you paid, there’s nothing in any law that allows someone to detain you for not showing a receipt. Loss prevention, if they observed you steal items, can apprehend do it of course.

      One time I had to wait a long time in line because the local Wal Mart was hopelessly understaffed by cashiers and the bag checker (who should have been on cashier!) wanted me to wait again in line to get my bags checked. Then when I said nope and left she started screaming into her radio… and I heard them tell her to shut up. It made the trip a little more amusing.

      • Here’s how that scenario goes with me:
        Bag checker: “Can I see your receipt?”
        Me: “You, too! Merry Christmas!” Smile. Keep walking.

  10. Most of the large stores in my town now have security, all unarmed, to deter the massive theft committed by our large homeless population. The homeless (and the druggies) tend to congregate around grocery stores, and the parking lots are not terribly safe. Areas behind the stores are used as sleeping areas and public bathrooms. After dark they close most of the entrances, leaving only a single point of access/egress to stop grab and run theft. Although they keep an eye on things, and will detain thieves until the police arrive (if possible), I don’t see that they have any actual authority or ability to stop such crimes.

    I have no doubt whatsoever that signs like these will have zero deterrent effect. Most of the people who will violate such signs, usually out of desperation, have criminal records already.

    • “I don’t see that they have any actual authority or ability to stop such crimes.” What do you mean by that?

      Whether it’s the shopkeeper’s privilege or citizen’s arrest (both common law concepts, so still the law unless specifically overturned by statute) they have roughly the same authority to stop crimes as cops and everyone else in America.

      • People performing citizen’s arrests are as rare as tree frogs on the Alaskan tundra. Second, many stores, as reported here with some frequency, strictly prohibit their employees from physical engagement with criminals, on pain of termination. third, most of the people manning the doors at Wally world are over 65.

        • So by authority you meant from their employer. Gotcha, thanks.

          Interestingly enough, I knew a lady who (citizen) arrested a guy for stealing from a Goodwill. Which everyone thought was awesome.

          And you were talking about security guards who did detain thieves. I didn’t really address the ability portion of your comment because you said they were unarmed.

        • People performing citizens arrests are incredibly COMMON.
          Every time a security guard says “Stop,” that is a citizen’s arrest. Every time a citizen calls the police and says “I witnessed a crime and will testify in court,” that is a citizens arrest.
          No argument from you – look up the definitions of citizen, arrest, and citizens’ arrest.

  11. Shoplifters are the reason we have to put up will all of that ridiculous packaging that is a major pain in the ass to open. They are also responsible for those packages of items like nuts and bolts that are frequently one or two short, especially when you need them all.
    .All persons caught shoplifting anything should get a minimum of 30 days in county lockup. Eight or eighty-eight. No Exceptions.

  12. As a former employee, and still a frequent shopper, of Wally World I can tell you for a FACT shrink is a very large problem. Especially considering Walton’s margins on most products. They have closed stores over it, redesigned store layouts over it, changed operating hours over it (many stores no longer being 24/7), and have no problem immediately canning someone for taking product home. Walmart needs to clamp down HARD on theft. It is an enormous drain on the company.

    Having done my stint in retail, I *despise* a thief. It also annoys me to no end when people say to just not confront a thief because the merchandise isn’t worth the potential for trouble. People who act like that are the problem. They encourage and empower thieves to run amok and abuse employees. If someone were trying to steal your stuff, would you want someone else to stop them?

  13. The Walmart closest to my house where I live in NC is pretty tame compared to most. Very rarely hear about parking lot muggings there, but they do employee Security that is constantly patrolling the lot. I rarely go there at night, but when I do go I keep my situational awareness sharp and I am always armed. To date I’ve never had an issue there, but that doesn’t stop me from carrying and keeping a good lookout for potential trouble. As Mr. T would say…..I pity the fool who tries to rob me. It will be the last “attempted” robbery they ever commit.

  14. “Signs, signs, everywhere there’s signs
    Fuckin’ up the scenery, breakin’ my mind
    Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign”

  15. Where I work, we’re not allowed to stop suspected shoplifters. Well, we’re not allowed to pursue them if they run for it. For our protection. What corporate expects us to do is approach the shoplifter and ask them if they would accompany us to the office for a discussion. While we’re keeping them occupied in the office, a coworker is supposed to call the police.

    In my town, 90% of the thieves/shoplifters are junkies looking for their next high. If corporate thinks I’m going to hang out in the office alone with a nervous junkie while unarmed because employees aren’t allowed to carry, they’re nuts.

  16. John, Did you hear that the WM supercenter on North Prospect in Champaign is no longer open 24 hours? Shoplifting had gotten so out of hand at night they recently started closing through the late night hours.

    • I did not know that, but do not find it surprising. I’ve seen shoplifters doing their thing there. Store management seemed indifferent to even surveilling the suspected thief when I reported them. So I quit saying anything.

      One of my friends works as a cop in the suburbs and I seem to recall him telling me that unless it’s a frequent flyer, WM is reluctant to seek prosecution for anything under several hundred bucks. And it’s not uncommon for thieves to literally wheel out big screen TVs. There’s a reason why laptops are in cages.

      I like Walmart, but I’m liking more and more all the time. Free shipping to your casa on all orders $35 and over I believe.

  17. Wal Mart has been known for quite some time as a great mark for theft, because their loss prevention people seem to not be willing to do anything physical. Makes sense from a straight liability standpoint and I know I wouldn’t want to be grabbing people as private security but of course the upshot is that people will sometimes just wheel out huge items without paying and drive off (with bad plates, etc).

  18. “Time will tell if Walmart’s new “apprehend and release” policy on shoplifters will make their stores more dangerous for the law-abiding as well.”

    I don’t see anything on the new sign saying they will release anyone after catching them. Do you have info not presented in the article?

  19. “At the same time, the new policy may also serve to make the stores more inviting to thieves.”

    This is the most illogical statement I’ve read all month. The threat of being arrested does not in any way increase the odds of someone deciding to steal.

  20. “Apprehend.”
    Without a statement from Wally, we don’t know what that means. Could mean detain, photograph, and kick out after attempting to steal a flat screen..
    Could mean chase across the parking lot and hard tackle on the asphalt over a pack of gum, and hold in a windowless, airless office for 45 minutes until the cops arrive. “He got that lump on his head when he tripped, right over there out of camera range.”

  21. Another issue that is rarely talked about is pseudo-thief scammers. These are people who want to get caught looking life they were stealing but come just short of it (Maybe influenced this decision). They then act offended. Many/Most only target stores that have money set aside for just such an occasion. Most stores would rather payout a one time lump sum of money, sometimes small sometimes not-so small, than endure bad publicity even if the store did nothing wrong. United Airlines are you reading this?

  22. There was a murder in the walmart nearest me. Maybe they should hang a sign that says “Don’t shoot your baby mamma in the parking lot or we’ll get mad”, and that will solve that.

  23. Walmart superstores here in South Florida are open 24/7
    I could buy ammo any time I need it!
    They are now selling Winchester white box 115 grain 9 mm for $18.75 for a 100 round box
    That is the same price I would pay if I bought a case of 9 on the internet
    My CZ Scorpion Evo with a Bair Arms trigger guard bumpfire device goes thru ammo at an amazing rate, even using only 3 round bursts
    I am a confirmed Walmart ammo shopper!

  24. What. The. Fuck. Did. I. Just. Read?
    Used to say Prosecute, now says apprehend and the assumption is crime will rise?
    Please say this was a Huffpo article.

    And as far as WalMart being more dangerous than other places, I have yet to see a gun free policy at WalMart. Open carry isn’t even questioned.
    Hypocrisy much?

  25. Walmarts cool, it’s like a trip to the zoo.I get to watch all the strange animals and they get to watch me back.They probably think I’m strange too.

  26. “new Walmart policy to “apprehend” shoplifters instead of prosecuting them.”

    Walmart can’t prosecute anyone. Shoplifters that are prosecuted, are prosecuted by the government. Shoplifters that are prosecuted, are apprehended first. Whether they’re apprehended by Walmart security or police they have to be apprehended before they’re prosecuted.

  27. With all the ragging on Wal-Mart, is nobody concerned that the cops complained about being called so often? Jeez, WTF?

  28. Not Walmart but another popular orange store, corporate has taken away
    all handcuffs from in store loss prevention staff.

    Shop at your own risk.

  29. I used to work at a retail store. Shoplifters were most active during the busy times and at night. Another words the period of time when employees were busy and concentrated up front and there were little to no workers on the floor. Employees were prohibited from attempting to stop shoplifters, and loss prevention was only around every couple of months at most.

    Walmart fails to employ an adequate number of workers, which acts as a deterrent. I imagine that some corporate big wig has determined that even with the rampant shoplifting in their stores, it is more cost effective to hire too little, and low wage, incompetent staff than to run a decent quality service. There are no serious consequences for Walmart’s inbred crime center, and there for they have no motivation to clean up as the milk the cash cow.

  30. First, why is this on a gun forum? Second, “apprehend” is all Walmart can do (other than stating they will press charges once a shoplifter is apprehended). The cops will pick up the shoplifter, ensure Walmart wants to press charges and the local district/county attorney will decide whether to prosecute. The shoplifter could be cited and released or booked into jail depending on local laws and how the cop feels.

    The real question is who writes these articles and who screens them? The author seems to not understand the nuances of the law nor do I see the point of this article on TTAG’s page.

    • The purpose was clear to me. The author is looking down his nose at guys like me that shop at Walmart several days a month.
      He was reaffirming his elitist status.
      I get my shot shells and throwing clays there. 9mm ammo 20 cents/round. Yesturday, I stocked up on pool salt. Cheaper than Home Depot by a couple bucks and way cheaper than going to a pool supply shop. Some of us don’t have a pool service.
      Do freaks and poor folks frequent WalMart? Absolutely. But Walmart is one of the most gun friendly retail chains in the country. Back off my world TTAG!

      • Maybe Michael, I hope not. I go to Walmart from time to time and I ALWAYS go to the gun section to see if something’s on sale. I bet there’s a lot more people here who also go to Walmart but chose to go with the flow and say they don’t – they are the same people they’re making fun of.

  31. this has to be at the university Walmart. its in the ghetto and not a super Walmart. i made the mistake of going there once to use the restroom. i dont recall seeing these signs in the east peoria super Walmart where all the riffraff has been gradually showing up at the last 4 years.


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