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Editorial: Walmart was good to meet with DeWees so quickly; now let’s see some improvements

Regardless of your shopping habits, the past few weeks it has been difficult not think about Walmart.

First, 22 people were killed in a mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, bringing the company’s security policies into sharp focus nationwide. Then, on the local level, the Eldersburg store was robbed at gunpoint Aug. 9. (Fortunately, no one was hurt.) That same day, Carroll County Sheriff Jim DeWees put Walmart on notice, telling us just what he thought about the company’s corporate security policies — that is to say, not highly.

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Carroll’s Walmarts put a particularly high burden on local law enforcement resources, whether though regular patrolling or responding to calls. And even if his approach might come across as gruff to some, DeWees has a point — there are a lot of calls.

Frankly, some of the most eye-opening statistics from police aren’t even from the Eldersburg location, which has seen three second-degree assaults and 20 thefts so far this year. The Hampstead Walmart has experienced more thefts in the first eight months of 2019 than it did in all of 2018. And thefts at the Westminster Walmart have nearly doubled between Jan. 1 and Aug. 13 from 2018 to 2019.

While certainly differing in scale, in light of events such as the El Paso massacre and the Eldersburg armed robbery, it’s important that Walmart implement meaningful security improvements nationwide.

With that in mind, we were pleased that corporate Walmart representatives appeared to acknowledge there’s room for improvement, agreeing to meet with DeWees and other local law enforcement leaders less than a week after his initial criticisms.

According to what we’ve been told from those attending the closed-door meeting, on the table are potential improvements to the stores’ physical security presence and security camera quality and coverage. But right now we’re slightly concerned that the official statement Walmart provided to us did not address security changes or when they might take place, which stores in Carroll County would be impacted by any changes and if any stores outside of Carroll County would receive similar scrutiny. These were pretty basic questions, and we hope Walmart intends to back up this meeting with actions.

It’s no controversial statement that large corporations — Walmart included — are far from accessible for the average American. Before the days of Walmart being spread all over, when small businesses were more the rule than the exception in a place like Carroll County, it would have been far easier than now to escalate a complaint to the management or even owner of a business. Trying to do so now with a big-box corporation might take you to an online form, a frustrating phone tree and likely little satisfaction. It’s a bit sad that it took a prominent law enforcement official saying, “Find me a Walmart that isn’t a burden on law enforcement resources and I will kiss your a--," to get Walmart to take these steps. Certainly this outcome wouldn’t have been possible if just any Carroll County patron of a Walmart store reached out to the company voicing such frustrations.

That said — credit where it’s due — we trust that the sorts of numbers law enforcement have been seeing at their local Walmarts will begin to improve as a result of the coming changes. And we’re sure DeWees will watch carefully and attempt to hold Walmart officials accountable for those changes.

DeWees told us he expects Thursday’s meeting to be the first of many. We hope that is the case, and we support him in his efforts to ensure safe conditions for everyone — and all stores.

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