Target Practice

Growing up in Minnesota, I was shopping at Target stores long before the rest of the country had heard of the discount retailer. It's even ...
by | January 30, 2006

Growing up in Minnesota, I was shopping at Target stores long before the rest of the country had heard of the discount retailer. It's even rumored that my mother's engagement ring was purchased at a Target in suburban Minneapolis in 1962, though I've never wanted to inquire whether this was true.

Customer loyalty in Lake Wobegon was undoubtedly enhanced by Target's well-publicized commitment to corporate philanthropy. Target gave back 5 percent of pretax profits to support education and arts initiatives in the local community. That policy continued as the company expanded to 1,300 stores in 47 states; Target currently donates $2 million a week.    

So I was intrigued to see yesterday's Washington Post headline "Retailer Target Branches Out Into Police Work." At first I presumed the story must be about designing and supplying a line of stylish clothing for beat cops. Rather, it turns out Target operates "one of the nation's top forensics labs" at its Minneapolis headquarters. Its investigators spend nearly half their time analyzing criminal evidence free of charge for local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

According to the article, the public-private partnership "Target and Blue" also has coordinated national undercover investigations; worked with customs agencies on ways to make sure imported cargo is coming from reputable sources or hasn't been tampered with; contributed money for surveillance cameras and prosecutor positions to combat repeat criminals; given management training to FBI and police leaders; linked city, county and state databases to facilitate information sharing.

"It stuck me that following repeat criminals was really an inventory-management problem," says Nathan K. Garvis, Target's vice president of government affairs.

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