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“Do Dollar Stores Create More Crime?”

If you or a loved one has been a victim of crime, you may be wondering what can be done about it. Neff Injury Law in Atlanta, Georgia has a team of lawyers that have worked on negligent security premises liability lawsuits for many years.

It is frustrating that innocent people needlessly suffer pain, lose wages from being able to work, and incur significant medical bills.

Crime is preventable. However, frequently businesses (apartments, hotels, retail stores, office buildings) don’t want to spend the money on reasonable security measures. When that happens, a personal injury lawsuit is frequently the only way to get compensation.

The Pro Publica Article

Recently, Pro Publica published an excellent article entitled, “How Dollar Stores Became Magnets for Crime and Killing.”  The article, written by Alec MacGillis noted “Discount chains are thriving — while fostering violence and neglect in poor communities.”  The full article can be seen here

Facts About Some Discount Stores

Mr. MacGillis makes many excellent observations about why Dollar stores have thrived and why crime is associated with Dollar store locations.  First, many downtown locations have suffered from population reductions from people moving into the suburbs and have fallen into economic decline.

For example, St. Louis’ population has dropped from 850,000, in the 1950s, to a little more than 300,000.

The Dollar stores have recognized that stores have closed and there is frequently little to no competition for serving the people remaining in downtown areas. 

However, the Dollar stores frequently compete by keeping labor costs very low – frequently having one or two employees on duty at one point in time.  Also, stores tend not to have security guards even when they have notice of dangerous conditions.

The article cites “The Gun Violence Archive,” a website that uses local news reports and law enforcement sources to tally crimes involving firearms.  According to MacGillis, the website lists more than 200 violent incidents involving guns at Family Dollar or Dollar General stores since 2017, almost 25% of which resulted in deaths. 

Prevalence of Discount Stores

There are now more than 16,000 Dollar Generals and nearly 8,000 Family Dollars in the United States, a 50% increase in the past decade. MacGillis noted that “The stores are often in high-crime neighborhoods, where there simply aren’t many other businesses for criminals to target.”

Unfortunately Covid-19 has contributed to the problem.  Customers now need to wear masks which has made it harder for clerks to detect shoppers who might have criminal intentions.

Are there other reasons for high crime at Dollar stores beyond the bad economy, the high number of stores, the low number of employees, and Covid-19 masks?

Preventing Crime at Stores

For about 50 years, criminologists have had the theory that crime could be prevented through changing the environment.  “Crime Prevention through Environmental Design” or CPTED, asserts that if criminals see a messy, disorganized location with numerous hiding places and no apparent security, that location is more likely to be a target for crime.  After all, criminals are looking to get away with their crime.

Many criminologists believe that making it harder to commit a crime doesn’t just push crime elsewhere; it reduces crime. “Crime is opportunistic,” he said. “If there’s no opportunity, there’s no crime.”

MacGillis notes that Amazon and the internet have hurt brick-and-mortar stores so badly that Dollar stores are about the only retail stores still growing in America. In 2019, Dollar General opened nearly 1,000 stores.

Todd Vasos, the CEO of Dollar General, told The Wall Street Journal in 2017, “The economy is continuing to create more of our core customer.”

Discount Stores Can Be Big Business

The bad economy has been good for Dollar stores.  In the past five years, the stock price of Dollar General has almost tripled.  In 2018, Vasos, Dollar General’s CEO, received more than $10 million in total compensation, nearly 800 times the median pay for workers at the company. Philbin, at Dollar Tree, was paid about the same amount.

So these businesses are clearly profitable.  Why not pay for security? 

Experienced Premises Liability and Violent Crime Attorneys

When you or a loved one needs help because they’ve been a victim of violent crime, call an experienced lawyer. Our firm has successfully handled cases in Georgia and in other states involving premises liability and serious injuries. If you or a loved one has suffered injuries from violent crime on a businesses’ property, contact the attorneys at Neff Injury Law for a free consultation.