Talk about denial: San Fran mayor ignores facts, claims Walgreens not closing stores due to retail theft

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SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Following the announcement from Walgreens where the company decided to close five additional stores in the San Francisco area due to organized retail theft impacting stores’ bottom lines, Mayor London Breed claimed that said instances of theft was not the company’s only reason to shut down shop in the city.

As we’ve previously reported here at Law Enforcement Today, aggressive acts of retail theft have been financially harming businesses throughout San Francisco in recent months. The brazen thefts have been occurring so frequently, that Walgreens has decided to shut down five locations come this November.

In a statement released by Walgreens, retail theft was cited as the primary motivation for these store closures:

“Due to ongoing organized retail crime, we have made the difficult decision to close five stores across San Francisco.”

According to the company, the locations that will be closing are the stores at 2550 Ocean Ave., 4645 Mission St., 745 Clement St., 300 Gough St., and 3400 Cesar Chavez St.

Yet on October 13th, one day after Walgreens announced the intention to close five stores in San Francisco, Mayor Breed proclaimed that the company is closing up the locations for reasons greater than retail theft – alleging that the company is “saturated” within the city:

“They are saying that’s the primary reason, but I also think when a place is not generating revenue, and when they’re saturated — SF has a lot of Walgreens locations all over the city — so I do think that there are other factors that come into play.”

Supervisor Dean Preston also shot off a series of tweets proclaiming that Walgreens is closing these stores due to a preexisting SEC filing from 2019 that announced plans to close 200 U.S. based locations:

“Walgreens has announced it will be closing its 300 Gough store in my district, citing organized retail theft. This store serves important needs of neighborhood residents. Media reports have accepted without analysis Walgreens’ assertion that it’s closing due to retail theft.”

“Walgreens has long planned to close hundreds of locations. In an SEC filing in August 2019, Walgreens stated that it planned to close approximately 200 US stores following ‘a review of the real estate footprint in the United States.’”

“So is Walgreens closing stores because of theft or because of a pre-existing business plan to cut costs and increase profits by consolidating stores and shifting customers to online purchases?”

“Our office is seeking further clarity on the reasons for the announced closures and whether there is a path to keeping the 300 Gough store open. We thank community members for reaching out and emphasizing their desire for a pharmacy in the neighborhood.”

While Supervisor Preston is correct in citing that the SEC filing did note intentions “to close approximately 200 locations in the United States” nowhere in the filing did it specify the exact locations in question – i.e., no specified cities/states were mentioned in the report.

Furthermore, a Walgreens spokesperson addressed the claims of Supervisor Preston, saying the company has already competed that 200-store closure effort before making the decision to close down these additional locations in San Francisco – which makes sense, since Supervisor Preston cited a 2019 SEC filing.

Walgreens announced that with the five locations closing in November, all prescriptions will be transferred automatically to another nearby location.

Furthermore, employees who were working at the soon-to-be closed locations will be offered an opportunity to transfer to nearby locations for continued employment.

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Proposed legislation in police-defunded San Francisco would allow deputies to work retail security

(Originally published September 30th, 2021)

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Legislation is being proposed in San Francisco that would allow for sheriff’s deputies to work as added security at retail stores throughout the city, a measure being entertained with the ongoing organized retail theft that has been taking place in recent months.

As we’ve previously reported here at Law Enforcement Today, retail theft in San Francisco has become a serious problem since the summer of 2021 – instances of retail theft have become all the more brazen and are posing risks of smaller stores possibly closing due to the impact of losses.

In San Francisco, currently only police officers are allowed to obtain overtime by picking up extra shifts posted at retail stores working as security – but proposed legislation would allow for sheriff’s deputies to do the same, if passed.

Supervisor Ahsha Safai, who is proposing the legislation, said that various other retailers refer to San Francisco as being “the epicenter” of retail theft in the country:

“We heard from retailers that San Francisco is the epicenter of organized retail crime in the United States, in their opinion.”

Safai also added that the way his legislation would work would impose no costs to taxpayers, explaining that retail outlets would directly contract with the sheriff’s department to organize compensation for the deputies who’d opt-in for these overtime opportunities:

“Essentially a private entity or an event contacts the city, in this situation, the sheriff department or police department and they would say they are going to pay for these services so they contract with the city.”

Sheriff Paul Miyamoto noted that if the legislation passes, his hope that the mere presence of deputies would make it so would-be offenders wouldn’t even consider attempting to shoplift:

“Our intent isn’t to go out and make a lot of arrests, our intent is to deter people from even thinking about committing the crime in the first place.”

This legislation will be further discussed and voted on by the Board of Supervisors as early as this upcoming November.

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As mentioned earlier, we at Law Enforcement Today have previously reported on the impact of organized retail theft in San Francisco. Earlier in September, the mayor and chief of police announced new strategies they’ll be employing to also curb said criminal activity.

Here’s that previous report.

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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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