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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis City Councilwoman Jamita Swearengen is claiming Kroger pointed to theft as a reason for closing one of its stores.

At a news conference Friday afternoon, Swearengen recounted a phone call said she had with a Kroger representative on Tuesday.

She said the representative cited millions of dollars in losses over a three-year period at the Lamar Avenue Kroger as the reason for closing it.

“I then asked, ‘What was the contributing factor?’ She shared, ‘Mostly theft,'” Swearengen said. “I was in disbelief because this is the community that I live in and this is the Kroger where I shop.”

A Kroger representative denied Swearengen’s recollection of the phone call, saying “theft” was never cited as a reason for losses at the store.

“I told her I did not want to speculate as I am sure it is a number of things, but we cannot speculate,” Kroger spokeswoman Teresa Dickerson emailed to WREG.

“It’s hard to believe that theft is the problem,” said Kroger shopper Jacob Mickens.

WREG checked MPD’s crime database and found 12 instances of theft or shoplifting in the past 90 days at the Lamar Avenue store.

There were no thefts recorded at the South Third Street store.

Councilman Edmund Ford Jr. said he also got a call from Kroger Tuesday but said they never mentioned theft.

“That was not articulated to me. Only the word ‘loss’ was articulated to me,” said Ford.

‘Loss’ is a word many Kroger shoppers say they can identify with as they process news of the two pending closures.

“My family been shopping at Kroger over 55 years,” said Mickens, who shops at the Lamar Avenue location.

With the two stores gone, many worry their neighbors will have to walk for miles in order to find fresh food.

“For those people who aren’t fortunate, I don’t know where the heck they gonna go for groceries,” said Kroger shopper Sara Lewis.

Ford called on other grocery chains including Publix to enter the Memphis market to fill the void left by the two store closures, which are slated to happen February 3.