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CLEVELAND, Ohio - A recent shooting of a suspected shoplifter by a Kroger security guard has led experts to recommend guards receive more training, to prevent such incidents in the future, the Columbus Dispatch reports. Supermarkets, among other businesses, commonly employ armed guards to protect their customers and products.
The state's Department of Commerce estimated that 30 percent of Ohio security guards carry guns. The department oversaw security guards until July 1, when the Department of Public Safety took over. Ohio security guards are permitted to carry a handgun after 20 hours of training, but the Department of Public Safety could change the regulations, according to a spokeswoman.
Tim Kennedy, a reserve deputy sheriff in Perry County and branch manager of U.S. Security Associates, a private security firm, told the Columbus Dispatch that training for security guards wasn't intensive enough in comparison with Columbus police officers, who must have 60 hours of firearms training.
Kroger said it plans to keep armed security guards in its stores. Meijer and Giant Eagle, its competitors in the area, hire unarmed security guards and armed police officers. Kroger hasn't yet decided, however, whether it will keep using Shamrock Security Corp. The company's guards have fired guns three times this year at Kroger stores, including the recent incident noted above.
"Each individual store situation is evaluated to ensure that our customers and employees have safe working and shopping environments," Kroger spokesman Gary Huddleston told the Dispatch. "The majority of our stores have off-duty police and sheriff's officers, (but) we've had to hire security guards in some stores because of availability and cost issues with off-duty police officers."
"If we see a shoplifter, we approach them and ask to check their bags. If they're uncooperative and take off and run, we get their license number and then we call the police," Meijer spokesman John Zimmerman the newspaper. "There's never a need for armed security guards -- that's the job of the police department.'
Reflecting clients' greater perception of danger, requests for security guards with guns have gone up from about 10 percent to 25 percent in the past five years, according to Marcy Ryan, owner of Ameriguard security services in Cleveland.