Thursday, December 28, 2006

Wal-Mart Increases Tax Base; Taxes Local Law Enforcement

You know by now that I despise Wal-Mart. In fact, I hate virtually all forms of big box retail. It's ugly, it's wasteful, it's soulless, it's ubiquitous, and it's all but useless for anything other than more big box retail. But like many patriotic Americans, I save my most vitriolic emotions for the world's largest retailer. Whether it's because of the poor pay and benefits they give to their employees, their disregard for local zoning laws when siting a new store, their devastating effect on locally-owned small businesses, or the selfish and greedy nature of their founding family, Wal-Mart deserves all of the opposition they receive. Now there is a new wrinkle in the war on Wal-Mart and this one is a doozy.

An article in today's Albany Times-Union describes the effect a new Wal-Mart has had on the time and budget of a small town police force in Bethlehem, New York. That particular store has averaged roughly 392 police calls a year ranging from people locked out of their cars to brawls involving gang members. While the Police Chief denies that the Wal-Mart has had a significant impact on his department, the numbers themselves are undeniable. The vast majority of these calls, of which there are more than one daily, would not occur without the presence of the Wal-Mart. Remember too that Bethlehem is a growing affluent suburban area with existing retail plazas. What would the impact be on the Town of Lima should they approve a Wal-Mart in that humble little burg? My guess is that, beyond the influx of traffic that would drastically change the character of that community, the growth in crime would necessitate an expansion of the police force - which would certainly have an impact on property taxes, not to mention the quality of life.

The article also cited a union-backed group that studies the various aspects of crime at Wal-Marts in this great nation. Check out their site for more information and, as always, buy local!