You’ll be shocked to learn there are some serious problems in San Francisco with petty crime. This week the San Francisco Chronicle reported on the seventh Walgreens drug store to announce it is closing in the city since last year. The problem is a wave of shoplifting from retail locations that can add up to millions of dollars in lost merchandise:
The drugstore, which serves many older people who live in the Opera Plaza area, is the seventh Walgreens to close in the city since 2019.
“All of us knew it was coming. Whenever we go in there, they always have problems with shoplifters, ” said longtime customer Sebastian Luke, who lives a block away and is a frequent customer who has been posting photos of the thefts for months. The other day, Luke photographed a man casually clearing a couple of shelves and placing the goods into a backpack…
A recent trip to the store revealed aisle after aisle of empty or near-empty shelves. Beauty supplies appear to be a favored target…
When a clerk was asked where all the goods had gone, he said, “Go ask the people in the alleys, they have it all.”…
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?”
The Walgreens clerks can’t do anything about the theft because the company has a policy preventing them from interfering in shoplifting. Allegedly this is for their safety but I suspect it’s really because if they didn’t have this policy and anyone got hurt, they would be sued.
And trying to stop this wave of thieves would be like throwing a pebble in a stream. It wouldn’t make any real difference anyway. A theft of less than $950 is a misdemeanor in California and even if the shoplifters get arrested they would likely be back on the streets almost immediately.
In the case of this particular store there may be another reason the shelves are bare. Hoodline reports that Walgreens’ lease for the space had expired and there are plans to tear down the existing 5-story building and replace it with a 47-story residential tower.
However, there’s no doubt the city in general and this store in particular had a serious retail theft problem. Inside Edition sent a video crew there for a story and witnessed a man jumping over the counter to steal some remaining merchandise:
All of this theft adds up. Earlier this month California’s attorney general announced he had busted a major theft-ring in the Bay Area responsible for stealing $8 million worth of merchandise. Most of it had been shoplifted from a CVS drug store:
On September 30, during a search and arrest warrant operations in the San Francisco Bay Area, agents seized and recovered approximately $8 million of stolen merchandise from retailers across the San Francisco Bay Area including CVS, Target and Walgreens as well as $85,000 in cash from the suspects’ residences, a warehouse and storage facilities…
Trailer after trailer, bin after bin, sack after sack — stored on pallets, stacked floor to ceiling, two stories tall. It took a team of 30 people two days to catalog it, mostly merchandise from CVS, as part of ‘Operation Proof’ of Purchase, $8 million dollars worth in all…
“They pay those thieves approximately $1 or $2 an item. And then they sell it to an illicit wholesale operation,” said [CVS crime expert Ben] Dugan.
The stolen goods eventually find their way to Ebay, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace and Amazon, where they are sold at a steep discount.
You can’t lose $8 million worth of merchandise and stay in business obviously. The city is turning a blind eye to this low-level crime and collectively it’s going to push retailers out.
To wrap this up, I came across another video from July of several thefts in progress at the same time inside a San Francisco drug store. I can’t be 100% sure but after comparing the two I believe this is the same Walgreens store as the clip above. It’s just being looted here and no one is stopping it. Notice at the end of this clip, someone is threatening to take the phone away from the person filming. San Francisco isn’t going to have any retail left if this continues.