Today's Letters: Wal-Mart stores cause crime's rise

Published May 2, 2007

Re: Planners approve Wal-Mart site April 10 story

We have three Wal-Mart Supercenters within an 8-mile radius. The latest proposal to erect yet another supercenter on Barclay Avenue is not only oversaturation by Wal-Mart, it poses a serious security threat to our community and a tremendous financial and manpower burden on our Sheriff's Office.

It is well-documented that 24-hour Wal-Mart stores generate an increase in crime for the surrounding community. Nationally, local taxpayers had to pay $77-million in increased policing costs in 2004. Not only is there shoplifting in the stores, there are assaults, traffic accidents, property crimes, robberies, car thefts, drug sales and use, and gang-related activities occurring in the parking lots. The national numbers are staggering, but the numbers and incidents in Hernando County are what is important to us.

At the three Wal-Mart stores in our county, the Sheriff's Office has responded to 5, 516 calls in the past three years. For each incident, an officer will spend an average of one hour responding, which includes interviewing witnesses, apprehending suspects and assisting citizens. Another hour can be spent on related administrative duties, such as writing reports and sometimes appearing in court.

Depending on the severity of the incident and how many officers may be required to respond, that can add up to 2, 700 man hours a year for three Wal-Mart stores. Add another supercenter and that figure jumps to nearly 3, 600 man hours per year our Sheriff's Office must spend on calls for Wal-Mart alone. This creates delays in response times to other residents for calls, and taxes the already overburdened Sheriff's Office, which is facing budget constraints and personnel shortages.

We know nationally that the average cost to law enforcement for each call is around $80. What would be the average cost to taxpayers in Hernando County for approximately 3, 600 hours for our local sheriff? If a tax base for this Wal-Mart store has been determined, will it offset the increased cost to taxpayers for additional police involvement?

A recent article in the Tampa Tribune quoted Barry Crowley, school safety and security coordinator, as he attempted to downplay the traffic congestion around Powell Middle School. He neglected to address the increased danger caused by the huge semitrailer trucks that are constantly pulling into and out of the Wal-Mart lots. He neglected to address the crime that gravitates toward the parking lots of these stores and the drug activities that occur on a regular basis. The students of Powell Middle School are at a very impressionable age and vulnerable to the unhealthy influences that are present at these parking lots. It is our responsibility to see to it that our children aren't subjected to these dangers.

Sandy Potter, Brooksville

Re: Fire district in voters' hands April 18 story

Scare tactics worked on vote

This vote was very predictable. Much worse was that it demonstrated many things, among them, our lack of decisiveness and leadership on the current commission.

The other is that bullying, threats and scare tactics certainly obtain results.

This is a real black mark for the community.

Vince Vanni, Brooksville