Walgreens is closing five stores in San Francisco, California, next month after a rash of retail thefts.
“Due to ongoing organized retail crime, we have made the difficult decision to close five stores across San Francisco,” Walgreens announced on Tuesday.
“Organized retail crime continues to be a challenge facing retailers across San Francisco, and we are not immune to that,” said Walgreens spokesman Phil Caruso. “Retail theft across our San Francisco stores has continued to increase in the past few months to five times our chain average. During this time to help combat this issue, we increased our investments in security measures in stores across the city to 46 times our chain average in an effort to provide a safe environment.”
“I am completely devastated by this news – this Walgreens is less than a mile from seven schools and has been a staple for seniors, families and children for decades,” said San Francisco Supervisor Ahsha Safai in a Twitter thread posted Tuesday afternoon. “This closure will significantly impact this community.”
“The City needs to act with a sense of urgency to reduce and deter the number of incidents of commercial retail theft,” he wrote. “That is exactly what the ‘10A’ legislation aims to achieve as we approach the holiday season.”
Safai authored a piece of legislation in September that would allow some 800 San Francisco Sheriff’s Deputies to work part-time as security guards for businesses. The deputies would work and be paid overtime by the businesses themselves. This would expand an existing policy that allows some 2,000 San Francisco police officers to work as private security.
San Francisco is the fifth-most affected city by “organized retail crime” in the United States, according to a survey published by the National Retail Federation in 2020. In June, a video of a man stuffing cosmetic products into a garbage bag and fleeing on a bicycle went viral. A suspect was later arrested and charged with 15 separate counts of grand theft, burglary, and shoplifting.
In July, a group of masked individuals stole armloads of handbags from a Neiman Marcus outlet in the city. The incident was captured on video. Later that month, four women stole bags full of merchandise from a CVS Pharmacy. Retail theft forced Target to curtail its hours at several locations in the city in July. Before the current closures, Walgreens was forced to close 17 locations around the city in a five-year period. SFGate reported in October 2020 that one store that was closing was losing as much as $1,000 in merchandise from shoplifting every day.
Progressive San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin has prosecuted far fewer shoplifting cases than his predecessor, according to the San Francisco Examiner, and has been notably reticent to prosecute what Boudin considers to be non-violent crimes.
“We made an intentional decision to prioritize crimes involving violence, injury to human beings and use of weapons,” Boudin said.
At one point, Boudin blamed police officers who “want to get away without doing their job” for the rise in retail theft.
“The reality is the POA (police officers union) needs someone to point the finger at and this isn’t a new issue,” Boudin said earlier this year, according to CBS San Francisco. “Look they were blaming (Vice President) Kamala Harris and attacking her when she was the district attorney. This is an age-old problem in San Francisco because the POA wants to get away without doing their job. They want to get away with allowing their officers to send racist text messages, to use excessive force against the community and to engage in systematic violations of civil rights of Black and brown drivers on our streets. And I’m pushing back and demanding that they modernize, that they reform and that they respect all the members of our community.”