Hy-Vee armed security sparks customer safety concerns

Hy-Vee’s new armed security team are present in at least two Iowa City Hy-Vee locations, prompting some customers to voice concerns for public safety.


Braden Ernst

HyVee on Waterfront Drive in Iowa City is seen on Wednesday, April 13, 2022.

Arabia Parkey, News Reporter

Armed security guards now patrol multiple Hy-Vee locations across Iowa City, causing customers to voice concerns about the possibility of increased danger.

In December, the grocery chain announced it would implement a security team in its stores throughout 2022, with goals of centralizing security efforts. Since then, the security guards have been spotted at both the Waterfront Drive and 1st Avenue Hy-Vee locations in Iowa City in the past two weeks.

Dan Stevenson, a teacher in the West Liberty Community School District, is reconsidering his grocery store options after seeing an armed security guard on one of his regular trips to the 1st Avenue Hy-Vee location.

Stevenson has switched to shopping at Fareway and also wrote an email to Tony Morrow, the 1st Avenue Hy-Vee assistant manager, detailing his concerns about a higher likelihood of danger for customers, he said.

“I think putting guns in public places means more likelihood of guns being used and I don’t see that as a public safety benefit by any means,” Stevenson said.

Felicia Pieper, a member of the racial justice and liberation group Iowa Freedom Riders and former University of Iowa student, said Hy-Vee is often more accessible for many Iowa City residents, including marginalized communities.

“The 1st Ave Hy-Vee is next to lower-income areas with higher Black and Brown populations, and it says something that it is going to really eliminate a lot of safe options for folks in Iowa City specifically,” Pieper said.

RELATED: Creating change in Iowa City: The Iowa Freedom Riders

Christina Gayman, Hy-Vee assistant vice president of communications, said in an email to The Daily Iowan that the West Des Moines-based chain has hired security in the past at some store locations.

“For years, we have had security officers at various locations; however, they were always from third-party sources where we didn’t have direct oversight of their training,” Gayman wrote. “Having this individual be a Hy-Vee employee allows them to be trained to our level of customer service and safety.”

Gayman told The Des Moines Register in December that many of the security officers come from law enforcement backgrounds, with additional training from a program designed by Hy-Vee retail security leaders and law enforcement partners.

Pieper said Hy-Vee implementing armed security feels to her like a sign that the chain does not want marginalized communities to feel safe in stores.

“IFR’s position, this abolitionist position, is that police escalate situations, they don’t de-escalate,” Pieper said. “And I think there’s a real potential for people having interactions with the police system that wouldn’t have otherwise.”

Stevenson said as a white man, he does not feel an immediate sense of danger from the guards but does believe they create an increased risk for marginalized communities who may shop in the stores.

He said he hopes Hy-Vee removes the armed security from stores after encountering increased customer concern.

“Ultimately, I would hope that Hy-Vees across the state are receiving pushback on this from community members that feel unsafe, that feel that this does not improve security in our community and has a real potential cost to our communities,” Stevenson said.