Walgreens, one of the largest drug store chains in the country, closed an additional 5 stores in San Francisco on Tuesday, citing the skyrocketing amount of organized retail crime in the city.
According to Walgreens, theft levels in the city went up to 5 times the national average for the store while security measures went up by 46 times the chain average to maintain security for both the store and shoppers.
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“Organized retail crime continues to be a challenge facing retailers across San Francisco, and we are not immune to that,” Walgreens spokesperson Phil Caruso said on Tuesday. “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.”
“Due to ongoing organized retail crime, we have made the difficult decision to close five stores across San Francisco. Each store will transfer prescriptions to a nearby Walgreens location within a mile radius and we expect to place the stores’ team members in other nearby locations.”
Crime in San Francisco has gone up continuously since the mid-2010’s, with the largest spike occurring only within the last few years.
The first major rise is attributed to the passage of Proposition 47 in 2014. Prop 47, also known as the “Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act” increased the felony threshold rate for theft in retail establishments to over $950, with lower misdemeanor thefts having jail time limited to a maximum of 6 months.
“This was not the sole factor,” noted Frank White, a former police officer in the Bay Area, to the Globe on Wednesday. “But it laid the foundation for everything that came afterwards. Criminals saw this more as a slap on the wrist and began planning small robberies down to the dollar amount or smash and grabbed stores for a single larger-ticket item.”
“In San Francisco, they just needed someone stupid enough not to prosecute those who were caught to lower the criminals risk even more. That’s when Chesa Boudin was elected in as District Attorney.”
Following Chesa Boudin’s swearing-in as District Attorney in January 2020, he soon instituted policies to not prosecute for lighter crimes as a way to reduce the overall prison population. Since becoming DA, the city’s crime levels have shot up across the board in nearly every category. Reallocated SFPD funds following the outcry from the 2020 George Floyd protests only worsened police response, with fewer officers being able to respond to robberies due to deep cuts in the budget.
With burglaries increasing by nearly 50% in less than a year, and no police, stores across the city have resorted to paying for more private security and reducing store hours to avoid high-crime times, or, as in Walgreens’ case on Tuesday, shutting down stores and leaving the city.
Along with the 5 closures this week, 17 have shut their doors in San Francisco since 2019, making store closures in San Francisco more and more of a recurring action there. Tuesday’s closures have also shaken many city lawmakers, now calling for increased measures to deter theft.
“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,” San Francisco City Supervisor Ahsha Safai tweeted on Tuesday. “This is exactly why we need more presence on our commercial corridors and an expansion of the “10A” program to reduce and deter commercial retail theft.”
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
Store closures, crime wave continues in San Francisco
Critics, however, say that the fault lies mainly with DA Boudin and Mayor London Breed for either refusing to deal with the issue or only giving token measures to stop the crime wave.
“The answer really lies, I think partially, with the district attorney and the fact that he’s made it clear he will not prosecute many of these crimes,” said President of the California Retailers Association Rachel Michelin in response to the crime rate. “When people hear that, they look at San Francisco and think they can commit these crimes and there will not be any consequences for their behavior.”
Others were more blunt on the blame.
“It’s 100% Boudin,” added White. “A lot of people on the force actually hate not being able to do more or seeing their arrests turn out to be for nothing since the DA refuses to prosecute.
“You have other police departments in the state like Los Angeles, San Diego, the cities along Highway 99. Anything not in the Bay Area. They have had to deal with Prop 47 in their own way. San Francisco is taking it way too far in not prosecuting. Other cities, they are by no means perfect. They all have issues. But they all are not afraid to prosecute robberies. It’s actually been good PR for many departments and DAs post-George Floyd as a bright spot that the police go after and help citizens with and help prevent. San Francisco is not doing this, so you see the city becoming more like Grand Theft Auto. Boudin is prosecuting less, and that’s causing criminals to be more emboldened to rob.”
The crime wave has spurred several recall attempts against Boudin this year, with others likely to start up later this year or next year if enough signatures are not gathered.
“These stores are losing in some cases $1,000 or more per day,” continued White. “If nothing changes and the city still won’t go after them, more stores will leave San Francisco. And that doesn’t bode well for everyone from millionaires and billionaires in Pacific Heights to those living under the poverty line in the Tenderloin.”