Mayor in police-defunded San Francisco announce new “initiative” to combat retail theft

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SAN FRANCISCO, CA – In response to the uptick and brazenness of retail theft in San Francisco, Mayor London Breed, along with San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott, announced a new initiative to address retail theft that has been impacting businesses all over the city.

Over the past summer, numerous videos and reports of theft occurring in San Francisco wound up going viral. One incident from July involved numerous suspects shoplifting dozens of handbags from a Neiman Marcus in San Francisco’s Union Square.

Video was captured from the July 5th shoplifting incident, showing multiple suspects running out of the Neiman Marcus with stolen goods in hand.

Perhaps one of the more brazen instances of shoplifting caught on camera in San Francisco over the summer occurred at the Walgreens back in June.

The video in question depicted a male suspect bring a bicycle and a garbage bag inside of the Walgreens and start filling up the garbage bag in full view of customers and employees – seemingly unbothered by his crimes being filmed on cellphones by onlookers.

Mayor Breed and Police Chief Scott acknowledged the impact of these crimes, as well as the videos of them, with Chief Scott saying that because of the brazenness of these acts, “people then start fearing crime, even if they haven’t been victimized.”

Under the newly announced organized retail theft initiative, San Francisco Police and the city will rollout the following:

  • San Francisco Police will expand their retail crime unit from 2 to 6 full-time investigators
  • Expanding San Francisco’s ambassador program from 8 to 25 employees
  • Updated online crime reporting features where tipsters can include a suspect description through the online form

Chief Scott said that instances of retail theft seem to be getting under reported as well, so authorities hope that improving reporting in conjunction with response efforts will help curb these sorts of offenses.

The police chief said that in the meantime, locals will have to employ “the eye test” while out about their business, to see whether things are changing through increased efforts:

“In the meantime, a lot of it is the eye test. If you are out shopping and doing what you do in the city, and you’re seeing these things occur, we want you to see less of it, we don’t want you to see it all!”

Margaret O’Leary, the owner of the 12-store chain of the same namesake, remarked that her store location on Fillmore Street in San Francisco had never been robbed in 20 years – until this past year, where it has been robbed three times.

Video surveillance captured during one of the robberies show multiple suspects running off with roughly $10,000 worth of merchandise in a matter of seconds.

O’Leary says that she’s had to limit visible inventory in the store to reduce the potential impact if robbed again:

“It looks like I’m going out of business, but this is what I have to do.”

O’Leary says that there have been no arrests in any of the three instances her store location was robbed, and notes that some of her employees are both frightened and have quit over the flagrant robberies:

“My employees are scared, some of them have actually quit.”

O’Leary added that the store in San Francisco is the only one that has ever been robbed out of the 12 total locations:

“Not in Mill Valley, not in Berkeley, not in Palo Alto, just Fillmore Street.”

The store owner has employed new anti-theft methods for the Fillmore Street location, such as keeping the entry locked and only opened for knocking customers, placing hangers backwards on clothes racks to make it harder to quickly yank items, and also providing employees with panic buttons.

However, O’Leary says that if the thefts continue at the store location, she’ll be forced to shut down the Fillmore Street store.

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After seeing Walgreens theft video, San Fran cop says, “I’m used to it, it’s been going on for quite a while”

(Originally published June 18th, 2021)

SAN FRANCISCO, CA- On Wednesday, June 16th, San Francisco Police Lieutenant (Lt.) Tracy McCray appeared on Fox News Channel’s “America’s Newsroom” and stated that she is “used” to shoplifters stealing with zero consequences for their criminal behavior.

McCray, who is also the vice president of the San Francisco Police Officers Association, was referring to a Walgreens video that showed a man stealing items from the store without being stopped. McCray said:

“What happened in that Walgreens has been going on in the city for quite a while. I’m used to it. I mean, we can have a greatest hits compilation of people just walking in and cleaning out the store shelves and security guards, the people who work there just standing by helplessly because they can’t do anything.”

The San Francisco Police Officers Association (SFPOA) blames District Attorney Chesa Boudin’s policies for enabling this type of criminal behavior.

The New York Post reported that the police and prosecutors are at odds over Proposition 47, a 2014 referendum that lowered the penalty for stealing goods worth less than $950 from a felony to a misdemeanor. McCray said that this law only emboldens criminals. She said:

“If you steal below $950, you get a citation and you just get to walk away and if you don’t show up to court, guess what? Maybe you get a bench warrant or maybe they even toss that before it even gets to that point.”

McCray added:

“Anybody can come in and do whatever they want.”

Tony Montoya, president of the SFPOA, said in a statement:

“This brazen criminal behavior is endured every single day by San Franciscans and it is the direct result of District Attorney Chesa Boudin and his enablers’ criminals-first agenda.”

Feeling threatened by that statement, Boudin fired back in an interview with KPIX-TV, claiming it is the police who need to “do more.” He said:

“There is no way that any prosecutor in this country can successfully prosecute a case if police don’t make an arrest and do a good job investigating it. It’s that simple.”

Statistics show that San Francisco police have struggled to make arrests in theft cases in the years since Proposition 47 was passed. To compare, the New York Police Department (NYPD) closed more than four times the number of larceny cases in 2020. 

The dispute over the driving force behind shoplifting in San Francisco continues on. In May, city Supervisor Ahsha Safai held a hearing over the issue, highlight the store closures. Safai said:

“17 Walgreens over the last five years, almost every Gap retailer outlet is gone, CVS is under assault.”

Safai added:

“It might even involve a more aggressive effort when it comes to surveillance cameras because you see the same individual hitting multiple locations. Then you can begin to have deeper conversations about bringing multiple charges or aggregate charges against that individual and really start to break this up.”

Walgreens officials stated that shoplifting at their 53 remaining outlets in the city see four times more theft than their other U.S. stores.

At the hearing, Jason Cunningham, regional vice president for pharmacy and retail operations in California and Hawaii said that stores in San Francisco also spend 35 times more on security than elsewhere in the country.

In 2019, Fox News reported that San Francisco had the highest rate of property crimes among the country’s 20 largest cities, including shoplifting. Organized crime rings are suspected of running shoplifting rings. 

The Public Policy Institute of California compiled numbers showing that San Francisco has the lowest arrest rate of any police department in California. In response, San Francisco Police Chief William Scott said:

“That answer does speak to staffing. I mean it’s direct and this is not an excuse, this is a reality. In order for us to be at these locations when these things happen, the officers have to have time to be there.”

In 1994, voters passed Proposition D, which mandated that there be 1,971 full duty officers. San Francisco has never reached that goal. Montoya said:

“With retirement and people leaving, it could take upward of a decade to recover.”

In 2020, the Board of Supervisors made changes to the police department’s budget, which resulted in police academy classes being cut. This time, the mayor is proposing an increase in their budget and has urged supervisors to support it. Mayor London Breed said in a statement:

“Don’t come out in solidarity to support a community and then cut away the kinds of solution that will help address those challenges. This is a community that wants more and we need to do better by them.”

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