SAN FRANCISCO, CA – It’s no secret that the businesses in San Francisco are under siege from those who simply walk into stores and take whatever they want without paying.
The problem with theft in that area is so significant that Walgreens, a large retailer, has been forced to shutter 22 locations because of, according to them, “organized retail crime.”
Now, Safeway, another large retailer in the city has announced that they will no longer be open twenty-four hours due to ongoing retail thefts.
Safeway In Castro Cuts Hours Due To ‘Off The Charts’ Shoplifting; ‘It’s Sad, Upsetting And Frustrating’ – CBS San Francisco https://t.co/WOCIne07gr
— Lara Logan (@laralogan) November 2, 2021
The earlier closures are being done in an attempt to prevent further theft from occurring at the stores during the overnight hours, as that seems to be the worst time for them.
Of course, not only does the adjustment in store hours most likely also mean lost jobs, but also can cause issues for those customers that can only shop at night or need something in an emergency.
According to CBS Local, Chris Rankins, who lives in the area believes that the changes in hours is going to be an issue for the community.
“I feel like it’s definitely an inconvenience, not everybody can make it to the supermarket between those hours, so it’s a little frustrating, especially for me personally. I like to shop later on.”
San Francisco Safeway Supervisor, Rafael Mandelman, says that the store has no choice but to adjust hours due to the significant rampant crime in the area.
Mandelman knows that the adjustment of hours is not optimum for some, however, there seems to be little options left for this retailer.
“I think like a lot of retailers they’ve been experiencing increasing property crime and theft from their stores. I think the last 6 months from what they say has been sort of…off the charts in terms of how bad it’s been. It’s sad, upsetting, and frustrating.”
Mandelman plans on meeting with the District Attorney and the San Francisco Police Department in hopes of developing a plan that will deter the retail thefts and allow his store to reopen 24 hours a day.
Whether he is successful or not depends on if he is somehow able to come to some sort of an agreement with the DA, which is unlikely.
Safeway in San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood will change its opening hours due to what one supervisor described as “out of control” shoplifting.https://t.co/q47bT4Ev6Z
— San Francisco Chronicle (@sfchronicle) October 30, 2021
The San Francisco District Attorney, Chesa Boudin, is well known for his left of center approaches in terms of enforcing the law, so much so that two prosecutors for his office have recently quit their jobs and started an effort to have him removed from office.
The prosecutors, Brooke Jenkin and Don Du Bain, spoke with KNTV about their decision to resign from Boudin’s office because of what they allege is his failure to prosecuting crimes. Jenkins told the news station:
“Chesa has a radical approach that involves not charging crime in the first place and simply releasing individuals with no rehabilitation and putting them in positions where they are simply more likely to re-offend.
Being an African American and Latino woman, I would wholeheartedly agree that the criminal justice system needs a lot of work, but when you are a district attorney, your job is to have balance.”
Du Bain, explained his rationale for leaving the District Attorney’s office:
“[Boudin] disregards the laws that he doesn’t like, and he disregards the court decisions that he doesn’t like to impose his own version of what he believes is just – and that not the job of the district attorney.
The office was headed in such the wrong direction that the best thing I could do was to join the effort to recall Chesa Boudin as district attorney.”
As mentioned before, Safeway is not the first company to make adjustments based on the thefts that are occurring. Walgreens has also closed a large number of stores and recently said they were closing five more stores in San Francisco. Why?
Walgreens spokesman Phil Caruso explained:
“Retail theft across our San Francisco stores has continued to increase in the past few months to five times our chain average.”
.@Walgreens will be closing 5 additional stores in San Francisco – including the one located at 4645 Mission St in the Excelsior
— Ahsha Safai 安世輝 (@Ahsha_Safai) October 12, 2021
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Walgreens has closed 17 stores in Nancy Pelosi’s police-defunded San Francisco due to ‘out of control’ shoplifting
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, shoplifting did decrease during the coronavirus pandemic, but police also told the news outlet that “incidents are often underreported and have become more violent and brazen.”
San Francisco Supervisor Ahsha Safaí told the San Francisco Chronicle that the situation is “out of control,” adding:
“People are scared to go into these stores — seniors, people with disabilities, children. It’s just happening brazenly.”
Longtime Walgreens customer Sebastian Luke told the Chronicle regarding closures:
“All of us knew it was coming. Whenever we go in there, they always have problems with shoplifters.”
Luke also suggested that the employees at Walgreens are helpless to do anything in the face of the thefts, saying:
“I feel sorry for the clerks, they are regularly being verbally assaulted.”
“The clerks say there is nothing they can do. They say Walgreens’ policy is to not get involved.
“They don’t want anyone getting injured or getting sued, so the guys just keep coming in and taking whatever they want.”
In fact, a shoplifting incident occurred right in front of San Francisco Chronicle writer Phil Matier, as he was working on a story about “rampant shoplifting” and Walgreens closures.
“No sooner had the clerk spoken than a man wearing a virus mask walked in, emptied two shelves of snacks into a bag, then headed back for the door.
“As he walked past the checkout line, a customer called out, ‘Sure you don’t want a drink with that?’”
In order to address the ongoing problem of shoplifting at retail establishments like Walgreens, Supervisor Ahsha Safaí held a hearing Thursday, May 13, with retailers, police, District Attorney Chesa Boudin, and probation departments.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that retailers at the hearing pointed the finger at “professional thieves instead of opportunistic shoplifters who may be driven by poverty.”
A representative from CVS also termed San Francisco “a hub of organized retail crime.”
Jason Cunningham, regional vice president for pharmacy and retail operations in California and Hawaii, reported at the hearing that theft in San Francisco Walgreens locations is four times higher than in stores elsewhere in the country.
In addition, Cunningham noted that the pharmacy chain spends 35 times more on security in San Francisco than in other locations.
Brendan Dugan, director of organized retail crime and corporate investigations for CVS Pharmacy, also attended the hearing. He reported that 42% of CVS’s losses in the Bay Area are from 12 stores in San Francisco, yet those stores only represent 8% of the market share.
Dugan added that it was “professional crime” that accounted for 85% of CVS’s losses. He called San Francisco “one of the ‘epicenters’ of organized retail crime,” reminding those present of a major retail theft ring bust in October of 2020, in which over $8 million of stolen merchandise was recovered.
That merchandise came, in part, from Walgreens and CVS.
In another take at the hearing on the origin of the thefts, retail grocery chain Safeway placed blame for “dramatic increases” in shoplifting on the passage of Proposition 47 in 2014.
California’s Prop. 47 amended the California penal code, Section 490.2, to lower penalties for certain thefts. It now reads that theft of property valued at less than $950 is punishable as a misdemeanor with a fine of up to $1000 or six months in jail.
The Washington Examiner reports that many California prosecutors also “have opted to free those charged with the offense under certain conditions rather than holding them in jail for the maximum sentence of six months.”
In addition, as we reported last year, San Francisco DA Chesa Boudin has refused to prosecute “low level” crimes like shoplifting.
As a result, would-be shoplifters appear to face the prospect of minimal if any consequences — if they are caught at all.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that in 2020, only about “31% of shoplifting incidents resulted in arrest,” a number that has decreased over the past two years.
Both CVS and Walgreens train their employees to “be engaged and visible to prevent theft, but not to confront thieves directly when it could turn violent.”
Some stores have hired loss-prevention personnel at significant expense, up to $1000 per day, but according to Dugan, security guards at CVS have been assaulted.
In addition, most shoplifters have fled the area before police have time to arrive, and according to Jay Cheng, public policy director for the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, loss prevention personnel will not detain shoplifters for fear of liability.
Liability concerns do not even have to involve physical contact. According to the Wall Street Journal, several retail establishments in California have been sued by people who were caught shoplifting and claimed they were racially profiled.
In addition to organized criminals, the homeless and the poor comprise another group that has been named as responsible for a lot of the frequent thefts from retail stores such as Walgreens.
Deputy District Attorney Matthew Donahue has called the increasing shoplifting indicative of “a lot of the issues we’re facing as a city: homelessness, poverty, drug addiction.”
Donahue reported to The Davis Vanguard that some of the people struggling with these issues habitually take only what they need from stores, while others steal more items in hope that they can sell them and raise money for their families.
Have watched this happen right in front of me and store employees. San Francisco doesn’t seem to care. @myrnamelgarhttps://t.co/CgWr7rwcl1
— Keith Chosen (@KeithChosen) May 14, 2021
The focus of shoplifting investigations, Deputy DA Donahue told The Davis Vanguard in March, will not be on them, but instead “only on stopping serious, repeat offenders, especially violent ones.”
The Davis Vanguard further reports that Donahue and his team have collaborated with a consulting firm to work through over 100 shoplifting incidents and identify and apprehend repeat shoplifters.
As of March, from those 100 plus incidents, four warrants had been issued and two serial shoplifters had been arrested.
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