A Safeway store in San Francisco is investing heavily into security systems to prevent smash-and-grab robberies.
The move comes as major metropolitan areas — especially San Francisco and other California cities — combat a wave of group thefts, in which large crowds of armed people rob stores and overwhelm employees.
“Customers tell KPIX 5 they have noticed more security guards inside and outside of the store, and now they’re seeing more security gates and barriers at the entrance,” reported KPIX 5 San Francisco. “An automatic gate closes after each person to make it harder for thieves to make a run for it. Safeway also added poles to its shopping carts to make them difficult to remove from the store… It closed off a side exit, and added a wall of water bottles — directing customers to the front exit.”
“Honestly, I think it’s probably good that they did that cause there was a really bad shoplifting problem almost every single time I came here, there was some type of ruckus happening,” one customer said to the outlet. “Lots of times there was people running and security following or trying to stop them.”
According to a statement from Safeway: “Like other local businesses, we are working on ways to curtail escalating theft to ensure the wellbeing of our employees and to foster a welcoming environment for our customers. Their safety remains our top priority. These long-planned security improvements were implemented with those goals in mind.”
In addition to retailers, KPIX 5 and other news outlets have not been safe from the frequent robberies. In March, KPIX 5 reporter Don Ford was robbed at gunpoint while filming a segment about car robberies in the city.
“The car came up here while we were about to do an interview, three guys jumped out. One had a gun and put [it] in my face and said, ‘We’re taking the camera,’” Ford recalled. “My whole thought at the moment was, ‘Be calm.’ Let’s not get this guy excited. He’s got the gun. I don’t. So you take you the camera. It’s yours, buddy.”
On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, a security guard named Kevin Nishita was murdered while protecting a news team reporting on a “flash mob” theft in San Francisco. When an assailant tried to steal KRON 4’s camera equipment, Nishita was shot in the abdomen.
“The victim is Kevin Nishita. He leaves behind a wife, two children and three grandchildren,” explained KRON 4. “Nishita worked as an armed guard for Star Protection Agency. Prior to working as a guard, he served as a police officer at the Oakland Housing Authority, Hayward Police, San Jose Police, and the Colma Police departments. A reward of $32,500 is being offered for information that leads to an arrest.”
“It’s been an extremely violent week,” said Oakland police during a press conference. “We are asking if you were in the area, have a business or live nearby to please check your surveillance footage as you may have captured the crime before, during, or after it occurred.”
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