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A San Francisco tech store is paying $30,000 a month for security due to a surge in organized robbery involving groups of looters who attack employees and escape with thousands of dollars in merchandise.
Software retailer B8ta is paying the hefty sum for 24-hour security guards with bulletproof vests to prevent theft at its store in the Hayes Valley neighborhood of San Francisco.
In February, a man came into the store, brandished a gun, and made off with two expensive laptops. B8ta closed the Hayes Valley location for seven months due to concerns about employee safety, as well as plummeting sales during the pandemic. The store opened again in September.
B8ta CEO Vibhu Norby told the San Francisco Chronicle that the $30,000 a month the store is now spending on security is more than the store spends to pay its approximately five employees. It is also more than the store pays in rent.
“We’re an unprofitable venture-backed company, and we have been since day one,” Norby told the outlet. “It’s something that most businesses can’t afford, but we can.”
The store invested in the security guards because the location carries expensive products like Syng brand speakers, which start at $1,800, and Willo children’s toothbrush “robots,” which sell for $250, Norby said.
The CEO said the security team also protects the video production equipment B8ta has in the store for online streams to promote its products. The equipment would take weeks to replace, Norby explained.
B8ta is far from the only retailer to be suffering from increased crime sprees in San Francisco. The city has seen a particularly high number of robberies involving merchandise worth tens of thousands of dollars.
The store is two miles west of San Francisco’s Union Square, where last Friday, looters carried out so-called “smash-and-grab” robberies at the Louis Vuitton store and other businesses in the area including a cannabis dispensary and a Walgreens.
On Tuesday, San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin announced charges against nine suspects, including burglary, grand theft, receiving stolen property, carrying a loaded firearm, and looting charges.
“I want to be clear about something. These are not petty thefts. This is not misdemeanor conduct. This is felony conduct and we are charging felonies today,” Boudin said Tuesday at a news conference.
“You will face serious consequences when you commit serious crimes in our city,” Boudin said. “The charges that we’re filing today are felonies.”
Companies like Kroger, CVS Health, and Walgreens have said that their stores have been affected by an increase in theft.
Last month, Walgreens said it would close five stores in San Francisco due to organized retail theft.
“Retail theft across our San Francisco stores has continued to increase in the past few months to five times our chain average” even though the company has increased security, a Walgreens spokesperson said.