Target No Longer Family Friendly

Armed men at Target in Alameda

Not sure exactly when this started, but several of the Target stores we have visited recently, including our local one here in Alameda, now have groups of armed men in military-style uniforms, and body armour at the entrance.

This is an odd decision for Target, which claims to be a family-friendly shop, and has a stated policy of asking people not to carry weapons into their stores to help them “create an
atmosphere of family-friendly shopping that’s safe and inviting for our
guests and team members
.” Having these armed men at the door does the exact opposite of that, for a number of reasons.

Armed Guards Increase Risk

An analysis of FBI data on bank crimes between 2007 and 2011, totaling more than 31,000 incidents, found that the risk of a violent outcome was much higher when armed guards were present. Unsurprisingly, it is the guards themselves who face the biggest risk – armed guards were 64 times as likely to be injured compared to unarmed guards.

“Personally, my company doesn’t do any armed work. None of the clients I have want armed officers. When they ask for them, my first question is always, ‘Who do you want us to shoot?’ ” 

Glade Johnson, security company owner and Georgia state regulator

That quote, from the article, echoes the question I put to Target’s CEO: under what circumstances are these armed guards allowed to use those weapons? At the time of writing, I have not received an answer to that specific question – Target’s guest relations responded with:

At select locations, we partner closely with highly trained and licensed security contactors. Security remains a top priority with us at Target, and we will continue to commit to the safety of our guests and team while shopping in our stores.

Target Guest Relations

Target’s own security personnel now wear jackets stating they are “Asset Protection.” One has to assume that the armed ones are also present not for the protection of customers, but to limit Target’s losses. If somebody runs from the store with a bag of electronics, would they use their guns to stop that thief?

Perceived Threat

More important than any of the data though is the first impression stationing people in military-style uniforms at the entrance to a store gives. My son, who has been through several years of active shooter drills at school, did not want to stay in the store the first time we saw them there, and does not want to go there again if they are there. He was concerned that their presence indicated an expectation of armed robberies at the store, and the potential for a gunfight while he was in the store.

The response from Target that these are only in “select location” also implies that they believe some stores have a higher risk of armed robberies. I checked local news archives and I can only find evidence of two armed robberies in bay area Target stores, one in 2017 and one in 2021. Why do they suddenly add them at the end of 2022? Is there an increased risk of armed robberies in their stores that justified paying to have armed para-militaries at the door to all the stores in the area? If so, I think my son’s idea may well be right: avoid Target stores, for fear of getting caught up in a gunfight between thieves and security staff, who may not have customer safety as their top priority, especially if they are being shot at.

Still Family Friendly?

Honestly, the answer has to be no, not while they have guns at the front door. If they had chosen either their own security uniforms, or something that didn’t resemble a cos-play soldier, it might not have felt as much like we were entering a war zone, but the impression that if they need armed security to protect the store, then there must be an increased risk of armed robberies there is hard to escape. Especially when no other stores we’ve visited in the area have armed security.

It also sends a clear message that they are more concerned with financial losses than the safety of their customers and employees. I am more concerned for the safety of my family, so we will be avoiding their stores until these guards are removed. More guns is never the answer – it only leads to an escalation of violence, as demonstrated in the article referenced above.

Should I receive an answer from Target’s CEO about the scenarios where they allow these weapons to be used, I will add an update here. Hiring a private security firm does not release Target’s management of responsibility for their actions, so I would hope they already have answers from the company they hired as to when any kind of force would be allowed.

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