Walmart Suspends Shoplifting Policy


Walmart’s policy regarding shoplifting, in which a first offender could opt to pay a few hundred dollars and attend an educational program rather than suffer legal consequences, has come to an end fter a California court ruled that such a program violates the state’s extortion laws, according to published reports.

Walmart had teamed with Boca Raton, Fla.-based Turning Point Justice (TPJ) and Orem, Utah-based Corrective Education Co. (CEC) on the initiative. CEC offers “a life skills education program” to keep people caught committing misdemeanor crimes out of the criminal justice system, according to its website, which includes links to articles touting the company’s work with Walmart

TPJ, meanwhile, “helps communities ensure more offenders are held accountable for shoplifting while simplifying the administration of theft offenses. For eligible first-time offenders, [it] offers restorative-justice solutions – all at no cost to police, justice systems, or retailers. The … solutions free up time and resources for police departments, prosecutors, judges, and the many other professionals that support the legal system.

According to The Wall Street Journal, many thousands of first-time shoplifting suspects, who are shown a video and given 72 hours to decide whether to enroll in the program, have shelled out a minimum of $400 to take part. If an accused shoplifter refuses to pay, he or she is told that Walmart may explore “other legal rights to seek restitution and resolve this crime.” As a result, some 90 percent of suspects sign up for the program.

Retailers normally receive about $50 to $75 in restitution from each offender enrolled in TPJ’s program, the Journal reported.

“It’s not welcome everywhere, and I want to understand that better,” admitted Joe Schrauder, the new VP of asset protection and safety at Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart, who made the decision to halt the programs pending further review. “We want to make sure we are partnering with local government.”

California isn’t the only state to have objected to the program: Officials in Oregon and Minnesota have also raised objections about the practice, contending that the fees to join the program are higher than the fines the suspect would incur if charged with a crime, and that retailers shouldn’t be permitted to have their own justice systems.

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds