SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Thanks to widespread and persistent shoplifting, 17 Walgreens Pharmacy locations have shuttered in San Francisco during the past five years.
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.”
Brazen shoplifting has worsened in San Francisco. Retailers attributed a majority of losses to professional thieves.
The cost of business and shoplifting led Walgreens to shut 17 locations in the city in the past five years.https://t.co/HizwQ0wC6z
— San Francisco Chronicle (@sfchronicle) May 13, 2021
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.
I asked one of my local walgreen's checkout staff how often they have the casual theft that we had both just seen, and the response was "…all..the time."
— Justin Powell (@justinp1) December 19, 2020
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.”
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.
The numbers speak for themselves. While sales remain relatively similar across urban markets – theft, shrink and workplace threats are through the roof despite an exponentially larger investment in security. 85% of this is organized crime according to the drugstores. pic.twitter.com/8Hggr02XuN
— Ahsha Safai 安世輝 (@Ahsha_Safai) May 13, 2021
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.
— 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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San Francisco to shift $120 million from law enforcement budget to ‘reparations’ to the black community
February 28, 2021
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Mayor London Breed announced Thursday how the city will spend $120 million removed from law enforcement budgets. Labeled “The Dream Keeper Initiative,” the plan will reinvest the money into the city’s black community.
The Mayor called the initiative “reparations.”
Will cutting a $120 million from the San Francisco Police Dept make response times go up or down? Will Detectives solve more crimes or less with massive budget cuts? @OfficerDunphy @SteveBellow @rcjparry @elgrenchoviejo @asthegirlturns @jenvanlaar https://t.co/emq8cxjC6L
— Thomas Marchetti (@Ryanexpress77) February 26, 2021
Calling the reinvestment “reparations,” Breed said the transfer of funds from law enforcement to the minority black community was to make up for “decades of disinvestment” in the black community by the city.
The plan calls for the funds to be used for workforce development health campaigns, youth and cultural programs, and housing support with the minority, predominately black communities.
The Mayor said the spending plan includes priorities identified during community meetings and surveys with black residents.
Also this week – Also this week – San Francisco Police Department Faces Force Reduction of 11% and
Budget Cuts Could Result in San Francisco Police Layoffshttps://t.co/1wUndz4S1a
— Trumpforce (@Trumpforce4All) February 25, 2021
Breed, the city’s first African-American Mayor, said that her motivation for carrying out the initiative was her own life:
“I grew up in poverty. I’ve had to live in poverty over 20 years of my life. And the frustration that came from living like that and then seeing so many of my friends who had been killed or in jail or on drugs — that is my motivation.
Because just imagine if we can change the outcome of African Americans in San Francisco. What an incredible, thriving city we truly will be.”
Funding for the intuitive will come from the budgets of local law enforcement agencies. $80 million will be shed from the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) budget over two years, and $40 million is from the Sheriff’s Department.
The cuts were prompted by a summer of protests following the killing of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis on Memorial Day and calls by some Democrats to defund police departments across the country.
In June, Breed also ordered the police department to no longer respond to non-criminal complaints.
Burglaries skyrocket almost 343% after San Francisco ‘police reforms’, massive police budget cuts https://t.co/YhPH12stiZ
— Ed – Conservative From L.A. (@Ed00498164) February 20, 2021
The actions of the Mayor and city council come at a time when crime has surged in San Francisco. Burglaries have been spiraling out of control, with a rise in property crime of 342.9% in the Richmond District alone.
As of February 14, there have been 124 burglaries in Richmond this year. Robberies, assaults, and arsons were also rapidly increasing over last year’s numbers.
While the cuts to the law enforcement agencies’ budgets are deep, 6% of SFPD’s budget, the heads of both agencies were supportive when the coming cuts were announced last year. SFPD Chief of Police Bill Scott said in July:
“We knew there would be pain and sacrifice associated with these budget cuts, but we also know they’re necessary to fulfill the promise of Mayor Breed’s and Sup.
Walton’s reinvestment initiative to support racial equality. While the cuts are significant, they are cuts we can absorb, and that will not diminish our ability to provide essential services.”
11% of San Francisco police could be laid off because of budget cuts https://t.co/cZGkrPXMjU
— Raymond E. Foster (@policeofficer) February 20, 2021
However, when Mayor Breed asked Chief Scott to try and find places to cut the budget further during a budget meeting, he said doing so was not possible:
“The majority of our budget is personnel staffing, and we’ve cut pretty much everything we can cut. Which will equate, because we’ve cut everything we can cut, in a reduction and a loss of 210 full-time employees.
“What you see highlighted in red are the stations that will be impacted the most. I am not supportive of these cuts. They will be devastating to the police department.”
The city’s President of the Board of Supervisors said the funds will help improve the black community. Shamann Walton said:
“This initial investment to improve outcomes for the black community and overturn years of disinvestment and inequitable resource distribution is just the first step in righting the wrongs of history.
“We now have to continue to prioritize communities that have never had a chance to build true wealth and this is a first step towards true reparations for the Black community here in San Francisco. We are proud of this work and looking forward to doing more.”
"The majority of our budget is personnel staffing, and we've cut pretty much everything we can cut." The San Francisco chief of police says any additional cuts will be devastating for his department. https://t.co/1e6jfzaIDl
— KRON4 News (@kron4news) February 19, 2021
The cuts follow similar measures in Los Angeles, where Democratic Mayor Eric Garcetti and the city council voted in July to cut the budget of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) by $150 million.
Councilman John Lee voted against the measure, which passed 12-2.
Lee said LAPD was a model other departments look up to, and pointed out that two-thirds of their officers are black:
“I’m not saying LAPD is a perfect organization. There’s always room for improvement, but … other police departments throughout the nation strive to follow them on their community policing, use of force, de-escalation, and implicit bias training.”
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