Otsego County has the highest rates of shoplifting in Michigan. According to data compiled by M-Live, Otsego County had 142 shoplifting arrests in 2016.
Gaylord Police Chief Brett McVannel says his officers respond to about three shoplifting calls in an average week, and 85 percent of them are at one store – the local Walmart.
“The biggest reason is that Walmart has some of the best technology available,” says McVannel. “Their camera systems go every single spot in their store, and they are able to watch people from the time they walk into the store to the time that they leave.”
Walmart is exceedingly good at catching shoplifters, says McVannel, and the Walmart Supercenter in Gaylord is a very busy place.
“People from all over northern Michigan will come to Gaylord because we have our Walmart,” he says. “People come to our community to shop a lot, which in turn … they may come to Gaylord to shoplift.”
Walmart Spokesman Ragan Dickens says that’s not unusual. In rural areas like Otsego County, Walmart often becomes the center of the community.
“Unfortunately Walmart can become the backdrop for crimes, whether it be in the parking lot or whether it be in the store,” says Dickens.
Dickens says over the last couple of years, Walmart has been responding to criticisms that local police are spending too much time policing its stores.
The company has invested in new camera technology, and it has plainclothes security people walking through stores and “hosts” at the front door checking receipts.
“These are all things that we are putting in place to just cause that criminal to say ‘hey, let me think twice about committing a crime at Walmart.’” Says Dickens.
McVannel says property crimes are on the rise in Gaylord. He says his office has more resources to respond to property crimes – like shoplifting – than police in big cities downstate.