Shoplifting Skyrockets In San Francisco, Forcing Retailers To Close Stores
Retail Shoplifting. Woman Stealing In Supermarket. Theft - stock photo
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Shoplifting has become so rampant in San Francisco that retailers are closing stores.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported earlier this month that stores like Walgreens and CVS are closing locations in the city due to “out of control” shoplifting. The outlet spoke to 77-year-old John Susoeff, who used to pick up his prescriptions at a Walgreens two blocks from his home until it closed in March. Now he has to walk six blocks to the next nearest pharmacy. Susoeff sometimes requires a cane to walk, and also picks up prescriptions for his neighbors who have mobility issues.

“It’s terrible,” he told the Chronicle, explaining that almost everything in the store was locked up just before it closed. “I don’t blame them for closing.”

A nearby CVS closed in 2019 after similar issues, the outlet reported.

The problem, retailers told the Chronicle, is apparently organized retail crime:

Retailers attributed a majority of losses to professional thieves instead of opportunistic shoplifters who may be driven by poverty, with one CVS leader calling San Francisco a hub of organized retail crime. Losses have shuttered drugstores providing vital services, even more critical during the pandemic as some stores give out vaccines.

“This has been out of control,” said Supervisor Ahsha Safaí, who held a hearing Thursday with retailers, police, the district attorney and probation departments. “People are scared to go into these stores — seniors, people with disabilities, children. It’s just happening brazenly. We can’t just as a city throw up our hands and say this is OK. We have to come up with solutions.”

The increase in shoplifting has caused Walgreens to close 17 locations in San Francisco over the past five years. It still has 53 locations.

Jason Cunningham, regional vice president for pharmacy and retail operations in California and Hawaii, told the Chronicle that closing the stores in San Francisco was an “unpopular and difficult decision” but that theft in San Francisco stores was four times the national average. He also said Walgreens was spending 35 times more on security guards in San Francisco than anywhere else.

CVS has faced a similar problem in the Bay Area, with 42% of its losses in the area coming from 12 stores, which accounted for just 8% of the market share. Brendan Dugan, director of organized retail crime and corporate investigations, said security guards hired by CVS and Walgreens have been assaulted. He added that the majority of shoplifting incidents at CVS came from opportunists but that professional crime accounted for 85% of dollar losses.

The hearing where Dugan and others spoke also featured a statement from Safeway, which said it had seen “dramatic increases” in shoplifting losses and suggested California’s Proposition 47, passed in 2014, may have caused some of the increase. The proposition increased the threshold for thefts to be considered a felony, from $400 to $950. While that may not have made a difference to small-dollar opportunistic criminals, it might have helped organized crime.

“Professional shoplifters can work the system by stealing items under the threshold from one store and hitting several retailers in the same day. To prosecute, the district attorney has pursued aggregated charges for multiple petty theft incidents by the same person, such as a recent case of stolen scooters. Police said a person could also be charged with possession of stolen property worth more than $950,” the Chronicle reported.

Shoplifting is just one of many problems San Francisco is currently facing. As The Daily Wire has reported, the city is battling with a wave of “wokeness” that is causing residents to flee. In February, the school board spent hours discussing whether a gay father of a mixed-race daughter was diverse enough for an all-female volunteer group. They ultimately determined he was not. That same school board spent the previous month enduring heavy criticism for deciding to rename numerous public schools based on a historically inaccurate Google Doc, claiming acronyms are a “symptom of white supremacy culture” while replacing one acronym with another, and getting sued by the city itself for failing to develop a plan to return kids to school.

A previous version of this article stated that the threshold for theft felonies was increased from $450. It was increased from $400. 

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