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A Midwestern grocery chain is rolling out its own armed security force to act as a ‘visual deterrent’ to retail crime

AP/Nati Harnik

  • Hy-Vee, a grocery chain with more than 285 stores, is rolling out a new retail security team.
  • The company said the team will be largely staffed with former law enforcement officers.
  • Hy-Vee’s head of security said the squads will act as a “visual deterrent” to criminal activity.

A Midwestern grocery chain is taking a more direct approach to dealing with retail crime.

Like many stores, Hy-Vee has typically relied on a combination of third-party contractors and off-duty law enforcement to provide security protection at its stores.

But last week, the company announced that it will bring those efforts in-house with a new team composed largely of former law enforcement officers, some of whom will be armed with tasers, pistols, and bullet-proof vests.

“We’re really a visual deterrent to criminal activity and violence,” Hy-Vee’s head of security, Jamie Sipes told Missouri television station KY3. “We’re there to be an extension of our legendary customer service within Hy-Vee to ensure the safety of our customers and our employees.”

In a statement, the company said the members of its security team will be specially trained to “defuse situations” and “equipped to protect” customers and employees. Video provided by the company showed how the officers uniforms and equipment would look.

The move comes amid a season of headline-grabbing robberies by swarms of suspects, and growing alarm calls from retailers. The National Retail Federation estimates that shoplifting and theft costs retailers about 0.7% of sales per year.

Calculating Hy-Vee’s annual sales of more than $12 billion with the NRF’s average suggests that retail theft could cost the company $84 million per year. Hy-Vee did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Sipes told KY3 that not every store will have an officer from his team on site, and that the program will begin rolling out first at those stores that are currently using third-party contractors or off-duty police.

“Hy-Vee has a strong history of doing anything for our customers,” Jeremy Gosch, Hy-Vee’s president and chief operating officer, said in a statement. “These officers will be held to that same standard.”

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