STAPLETON, Colo. — Shoplifting, car break-ins, even strong-armed robberies. Not exactly what you expect when you head to Walmart.
But that's exactly what shoppers have come to expect at the Walmart in Stapleton in recent years. So much so that Denver City Council is considering renewing a contract to provide police protection at that store, which is something Walmart has agreed to pay for through reimbursement to the city.
This Walmart location off Smith Road was one of the worst in the nation for crime, Denver police said.
A few years ago, it ranked in the top five percent of Walmarts nationwide for shoplifting, according to The Denver Post.
Walmart management said some of the most commonly stolen items include cosmetics, razors, meat and baby formula.
But, the crime wave goes beyond shoplifting. A 70-year-old woman was attacked in the parking lot after she had just cashed a tax check worth more than $4,000.
Another woman, Star Lacrue, had her car broken into last year in the parking lot and someone stole her 10-month-old baby's oxygen machine.
"He has apnea. So, when you fall asleep, you stop breathing," she said. "Right now, you can tell he's OK. But, when he's sleeping, everything gets scary."
Theft has decreased at the location since Walmart agreed to hire off-duty Denver cops, said Lt. Bob Wyckoff with the Denver Police Department.
The city says the current contract pays the city about $285,000 per year to ensure cops patrol the store seven days a week.
The store was, by a long shot, the worst in the city for shoplifting with 283 reported cases in one year alone, according to the Denver Post. That's 179 more than the second-highest shoplifting location in the city for that year, the Rite Aid on the 16th Street Mall.
The Stapleton Walmart reported to police that it loses $1.5 million each year to theft.
Location is certainly a part of the issue. The Walmart sits right off I-70 and Quebec, making for a quick getaway for thieves, Wyckoff said. It also has a high transient population and is just a mile or so from the county jail.
Frustrated by the high number of calls, police have staged empty squad cars in front of the doors, but those, too, have become victims of crime, Wyckoff said. They're often spit on and kicked.
Denver7 reached out to Walmart for comment Monday and did not hear back.
Walmart now pays Denver police to patrol inside and outside this store, mainly after dark. Denver City Council will vote to continue or discontinue that contract Monday night. It’s expected to pass.
Wyckoff said before that contract, on-duty officers found themselves at that store “all the time” for theft, aggravated assault and other crimes.
“It was draining our resources in that district,” he said. “Officers on-duty were constantly there.”
Then, about two years ago, Wyckoff developed a working relationship with Walmart management to come up with a crime prevention plan. He said he insisted that Walmart hire officers to work there. Eventually, the two sides agreed.
The DPD also worked with Walmart to improve lighting at the store and lock one of the main entrances after dark. Officers walk the aisles while on shift and talk with customers. Police and Walmart management identified the top 100 items that were common for theft and placed signs next to each one indicating police were watching.
And so far, Wyckoff said those measures are working.