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The discount that comes at a price: Tracking violent crimes at Northeast Ohio dollar stores

Posted at 12:44 PM, Nov 21, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-22 10:14:13-05

Clerks in the line of fire — pistol-whipped, beaten, even shot by robbers just looking to score some quick cash. 

Watch the full story tonight on News 5 at 11 p.m.

The calls are coming in at all times of day at stores best known for their price point.

"They rob the dollar stores all the time," Michael Nelson told News 5. 

He's right. 

Northeast Ohio dollar stores robbed

News 5 tracked 33 in the last 3 years and that's not even a complete list. 

Nelson has seen it.

"One of the clerks got shot," he said.

Nelson walked into a Family Dollar on Superior Avenue in October with his toddler in the middle of the day: "They had a gun to people's heads making them get in the corner. We heard the gunshot."

They got away. So did the man who shot the clerk. 

Nelson was just a customer.  

But getting employees and victims to talk on camera proved difficult. Nobody would go on camera with us.

So News 5 went inside to found out. 

Employees turned victims

"My first day as a manager I got robbed on Thanksgiving Day," a store employee said. "Robberies happen so often."

No new security was added to the store. 

"They are not going to get security," she said. "You have to be in a very bad area."

There was guard outside in a car, who works for the shopping center.


Robberies at local Family Dollar locations have shoppers concerned

Family Dollar store in Cleveland robbed at gunpoint by 3 suspects

Armed robber spends night inside Cleveland Family Dollar

The bottom line

Attorney David Steiger represents employees hurt working in these stores.

"They know that people are getting hurt," Steiger said. "They know that their employees are getting hurt. And if they're not changing anything? That's not by accident. That's for a reason. And that reason is their bottom line."

Dollar Tree bought Family Dollar three years ago for $8.5 billion dollars.

Dollar Tree and Dollar General are both Fortune 500 companies. 

Each with more than 100,000 employees. Many live in the neighborhoods these stores are located and they're just looking for steady work.

"In terms of what they have to pay to that injured worker for their injury, if you're looking at a part-time minimum wage job, what's that? About $250 per week," he said. "There's some sort of cost-benefit analysis that's going on, otherwise things would change." 

So is it cheaper to pay out the workers comp claim?

"I would think for an armed security guard," said Steiger. "I can guarantee you it's going to be more than $250 a week full time."

"I hope the corporate entities in Family Dollar, wherever they're located at, take notice of this,"  Cleveland native, Nathaniel Martin, told News 5. 

The response

So, are they taking notice? 

News 5 reached out to Dollar General and Dollar Tree Inc.

They sent the following statements:

Dollar General:

Dollar General serves the Cleveland community by providing its customers with everyday value and convenience through its additional stores in the area. The safety of our employees and customers is a 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. As a local business and community stakeholder, we continue to work collaboratively with local law enforcement to reduce crime in our stores and the neighborhoods where we do business.

Dollar Tree Incorporated (represents Family Dollar):

Safety and security of our customers and associates is our first priority.  Our goal is to operate stores in communities that are in close proximity to where our customers live and work.  When violence occurs in the communities we serve, it affects everyone - including our stores.
We have proudly operated stores in the Cleveland area for many years.  We strive to create a safe work and shopping environment by tailoring our store operations and security for each store.
 We have policies and rigorous training in place for store safety and security incidents, and we often enhance our on-premise security and surveillance systems, and our employee training, to reduce the incidence of robberies.  While I am unable to go into all of the specifics regarding our security measures, we continually evaluate the needs of each of our stores and make a determination to place guards and other increased security measures in stores on a case-by-case basis.

"If it's not broke, why fix it? If it's gotten them this far, to make the kind of money they've been making, which is billions of dollars a year, why should they change it?" Steiger asked. 

It's not enough for some of the people working at, shopping in or living near these stores.

"For the safety of the employees of Family Dollar and for us citizens that have to endure this? We are asking that these stores, like Family Dollar, get real police officers," Martin said.