A recent viral video shows a man in San Francisco riding a bike through Walgreens, filling a garbage with merchandise, and sailing out of the store with a security guard and store employee standing helplessly by. Another viral video shows a thief jumping over a counter and then leaving on a scooter while a TV crew does a story on shoplifting. Such scenes have become so common in San Francisco that retail chains are applying new rules to their operations in the city.
— Lyanne Melendez (@LyanneMelendez) June 14, 2021
Store management is telling employees and security guards to be visible but not to confront thieves, which explains the behavior seen in the video. Being visible is no longer a deterrent, as those leisurely looting the stores know they will not be arrested or prosecuted in the “City by the Bay.” This creates frustration among business owners and large retail chains trying to stop the bleeding.
Target, which has several stores in San Francisco, has established limited hours due to increased theft. Only one store adjacent to the downtown area is operating regular hours, and one is showing as closed on July 4. A search on Target’s website shows that the remaining four stores in the area are opening later and closing earlier than is typical. This change follows multiple closures of Walgreens and Gap stores and increased targeting of CVS stores.
Target told KPIX 5 that the decision was related to an increase in both theft and security incidents. A spokesperson confirmed:
“For more than a month, we’ve been experiencing a significant and alarming rise in theft and security incidents at our San Francisco stores, similar to reports from other retailers in the area.”
“Target is engaging local law enforcement, elected officials and community partners to address our concerns. With the safety of our guests, team members and communities as our top priority, we’ve temporarily reduced our operating hours in six San Francisco stores.”
According to the California Retailers Association (CRA), organized retail crime rings commit most thefts in San Franciso. These groups are recruiting juveniles and homeless individuals to steal items. The crews then resell stolen goods on the street, and the crime rings pocket the profit. CRA President Rachel Michelin contends that these organized groups then move those willing to steal into more significant crimes such as human trafficking. According to Michelin:
“This has been a problem going on for years. We have been diligently trying to find solutions to this including pending legislation to continue funding for the Organized Retail Task Force. We are trying to attack it from all different ways. Our priority is the safety of our employees and consumers. We can’t have our security guards going after this- they are not law enforcement.”
Thanks to Proposition 47, which passed in 2014, patrons can take a five-finger discount on merchandise up to $950 before facing felony charges. In 2018, because of rising rates of organized retail crime, the legislature amended the law to make cases with multiple suspects, or multiple stores, felonies. Thefts under $950 are still considered misdemeanors. Law enforcement could arrest the thieves. However, the San Francisco District Attorney’s office will not prosecute them.
The out-of-control situation in San Francisco shows the importance of local politics. District Attorney Chesa Boudin vowed not to prosecute what he refers to as lifestyle crimes such as public camping, prostitution, and public defecation. Thieves who receive misdemeanor charges for shoplifting less than $950 in merchandise are not held in jail and often do not show up to hearings. If the judge issues a bench warrant and police pick up the suspect, the process repeats itself.
As PJ Media’s Victoria Taft noted, a recall effort is underway to remove the Soros-funded Boudin from office:
Eighty percent of residents polled in the Chamber of Commerce survey said they felt unsafe in their city. But, this being liberal San Francisco, while 72% said more cops should be concentrated in high crime areas, 82% want more social workers to hit the streets and counsel the criminals.
Maybe residents should speak to employees on the frontlines. As a Walgreens security guard told ABC 7:
“It’s going to be lawsuits, obviously they don’t want ourselves or anybody else to get injured while we’re out here attempting to make these apprehensions and leave it to law enforcement,” said Greathouse.
He carries with him a handgun, a taser and pepper spray, but thankfully he’s never had to use them. On the other hand, he says people shoplifting have, at times, threatened him with a knife.
“I don’t have any intention of getting stabbed for $60 worth of stuff,” he added.
Elections have consequences, and it seems voters in San Franciso may be waking up to that fact.