On Your Side Investigation: Hidden cost of the neighborhood dollar store

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Over one year, Birmingham police got more than 1,350 calls for assistance from 19 dollar stores across Birmingham.

That's nearly four calls for police each day.

"It's a challenge that we've had stores like that, to require a lot of manpower and a lot of response, police response," said Lt. Sean Edwards of the Birmingham Police Department.

An analysis of records requested from the department shows the most common reasons for a call to police were theft or unlawful breaking into a car, loitering, a disorderly person or fight, or a suspicious car or vehicle.

Far fewer calls for more serious issues included seven calls for an assault and 22 calls about a person with a weapon.

Some stores were the subject of more calls than others.  Family Dollar on Jefferson Avenue had nearly one call every two-and-a-half days. Most of the calls were about theft, loitering, or a fight.

"It still pulls officers away when they could be doing more patrolling or more investigating or something else and so that could become challenging for officers who are responding to that particular business," said Edwards.

Edwards explained that police met with Family Dollar district managers in 2015 and separately talked with a couple Dollar General store managers. Discussion surrounded security and surveillance at the store properties.

"It appeared that everybody was receptive to what we were saying. There were some stores that made some adjustments and some stores that did not make a whole lot of adjustments," he said.

Across the city, more than 960 calls were made about Family Dollar stores. A spokesperson for Family Dollar said in a statement:

The safety and security of our customers and team members is our first priority.  We have proudly operated stores in the Birmingham area for many years. When violence occurs in the communities we serve, it affects everyone- including our stores.  We do have policies and rigorous trainings in place to best respond to store safety and security incidents and are committed to continually improving them to address potential threats to our stores.

Dollar General was the subject of about 390 calls to police. A Dollar General spokesperson issued a statement:

The safety of our employees and customers is a top priority, and we employ a number of safety and security procedures to prevent, deter and, if necessary, respond to criminal activity in our stores. To protect the integrity of these measures, we do not comment on them specifically.

Call records about four other dollar store locations at shopping centers showed more than 900 calls were made about these addresses in one year, but police could not specify how many of these calls were about the dollar stores or about some other store at the shopping center.

Copyright 2017 WBRC. All rights reserved.