Opinion | Armed guards at local Hy-Vee stores unnecessary

Placing armed security guards at local Hy-Vee stores is stressful. Following initial reactions and obstacles facing Hy-Vee, will leave customers with a sour taste in their mouths.


Braden Ernst

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

Chris Klepach, Opinions Columnist

Recently, armed guards have been added to Iowa City Hy-Vee locations, on Waterfront Drive and the other on 1st Ave, with the potential to add more guards later this year.

There is no need to take such an overbearing measure.

Hy-Vee announced its stores would implement guards last year, a step that privately ensured the supermarket security that strongly indicates its desire to invest in such things — which is baffling. Has crime been prevalent enough in our local communities for that type of investment?

It’s true that Iowa has relaxed handgun carry laws that allow citizens to conceal and carry them without a permit, yet there is not a high volume of gun violence in Iowa City. In fact, there were 20 fewer reports of shots fired in 2021 than in 2020 after shots fired quadrupled from 2019 to 2020 in Iowa City.

Although Iowa City has had a small increase of seven percent for year-to-year crime, its crime rate ranks low compared to national averages.

While scouring the internet produced no sufficient data on the amount of crime in the city so far this year, we can see in this 2020 report that Iowa City was 17 percent lower in overall crime, 49 percent less in violent crime, and 10 percent less in property crime than the national average.

The security guards in Hy-Vee’s announcement video appear to wear standard officer paraphernalia, equipped with a gun, stun gun, taser, body cameras, pepper spray, and handcuffs.  The first thing on that list can be an automatic repellent of some shoppers, considering how Johnson County supervisor Jon Green, lambasted the use of armed security. His tweet reads:

“Since the retail security manager I spoke with wouldn’t commit to passing my feedback up the ladder, just want to ensure @HyVee understands I will no longer do business with them, so long as they maintain armed security.” Green tweeted, wanting others to follow suit. “I encourage everyone else to find better options, as well.”

Hy-Vee spokesperson Christina Gayman wrote in a email exchange in a previous *Daily Iowan* article* that the security isn’t necessarily new:

“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.”

Head of Security Jamie Sipes clarified that the move is not because of increasing theft in Hy-Vee stores. Instead, he referred to guards a “visual deterrent” in an interview with KYTV.

A scare tactic.

This investment for Hy-Vee is only further punctuated by the laying off of 121 store employees, most from marketing, communications, and technology departments.

One cannot help but wonder if Hy-Vee is pivoting more towards the physical shopping experience by doing this – considering COVID-19 restrictions have gotten looser – even if said- pivoting is done in a way which upsets some, while others support it, creating a divide in the customer base.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.