The ravages of crime in a liberal bastion have led one retailer to close stores rather than to keep fighting a losing battle.
Walgreens announced Tuesday that it will close five stores in the heart of San Francisco.
“Organized retail crime continues to be a challenge facing retailers across San Francisco, and we are not immune to that,” said Walgreens spokesperson Phil Caruso, according to SFGate.
“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.”
“This is a sad day for San Francisco,” said Ahsha Safai, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. “We can’t continue to let these anchor institutions close that so many people rely on.”
“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. This closure will significantly impact this community,” he wrote in a Twitter post.
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. This closure will significantly impact this community.
— Ahsha Safai 安世輝 (@Ahsha_Safai) October 12, 2021
Safai said one store had added security, but it was “too little, too late for this store.”
Is California a failed state?
California law says that stealing less than $950 worth of goods is penalized as a nonviolent misdemeanor.
In response to an increase in theft, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom approved funding police task forces to address the spike in crimes carried out by well-organized theft syndicates.
But that damage has been done, Lee Ohanion wrote in an Op-Ed for the Hoover Institution.
“We probably shouldn’t call it shoplifting anymore, since that term connotes the idea of a person trying to conceal their crime. In San Francisco, there is no attempt to conceal theft, and there is almost never any effort by store employees, including security personnel, to confront the thieves. The most they do is record the thefts with their cell phones,” he wrote.
“Why won’t store employees do anything about this theft? Because they don’t want to take the risk. I doubt many would, knowing that a Rite Aid employee was murdered recently after trying to stop two thieves. Moreover, a confrontation within the store risks harming not only store staff but also customers, so employees are almost certainly instructed by their managers to do nothing,” he continued.
“It is not just pharmacies that are being ransacked. Recently, San Francisco’s Neiman Marcus was targeted by thieves who had a hankering for designer handbags and hit the purse department hard. The video shows one after another, after another, running out, as apparently there were 10 thieves, and they stole over the $950-per-thief misdemeanor limit.”
He wrote that Newsom’s response is too little to change anything.
“Governor Newsom recently signed a new law in which shoplifting is a felony, even if it is below the $950 limit, if—and this is a big “if”—the theft is part of an organized ring with the intent to sell the stolen goods. Sadly, this may have little effect on shoplifting, given that most of these thefts are by individuals, rather than groups, and it will still be up to police and prosecutors to charge these as felonies,” he wrote.
“What is needed is a change to the state law that makes shoplifting at a much lower dollar level a felony, to provide adequate incentives to individuals not to commit these crimes.”