Outdoor clothing company Cotopaxi announced on Tuesday that it would be closing its San Francisco store due to multiple break-ins and a rise in crime in the area, becoming the latest store to leave San Francisco due to crime.
Since the beginning of the decade, San Francisco has lost dozens of different stores due to high crime, ranging from high-end stores to local grocery stores and drug stores. Walgreen’s alone has closed around a dozen stores in the city in only a few years, with many other drastically reducing night hours to avoid robberies.
Clothing stores have been particularly hard hit by crime due to the ease in which merchandise can be taken and how stores are laid out. Even with many stores hiring private security guards or installing more security features, many clothing stores have left in the last few years, including the Gap, which closed their flagship store in the city in 2020, and other sportswear and outdoor brands such as Decathlon leaving. This has led to some famed shopping areas such as Market Street to have more and more empty store fronts.
Joining them on Tuesday was Cotopaxi, with founder and CEO Davis Smith saying that rampant crime and fear for the safety of workers led to the company deciding to remove their store in the city.
In a post on LinkedIn, Smith said “It’s sad, but San Francisco appears to have descended into a city of chaos. Many streets and parks are overrun with drugs, criminals, and homelessness, and local leadership and law enforcement enable it through inaction. One of the most beautiful and amazing cities in the world is now a place where many no longer feel safe visiting or living.
Leaving San Francisco
“We opened a retail store a year ago on Hayes Street, the charming shopping district just blocks away from the famous Full House home. Our first week there, our windows were smashed and thousands of dollars of product was stolen. We replaced the window, and it immediately happened again (four times). We replaced with window with plywood as we waited for a month+ to get a metal security gate installed (demand for those gates is creating huge delays). As of today, we are closing the store due to rampant organized theft and lack of safety for our team. Our store is hit by organized theft rings several times per week. They brazenly enter the store and grab thousands of dollars of product and walk out. We started keeping the door locked and opening it only for customers, but even then, they’ll have a woman go to the door, and then hiding individuals rush into the store as soon as the door opens.
“Our team is terrified. They feel unsafe. Security guards don’t help because these theft rings know that security guards won’t/can’t stop them. It’s impossible for a retail store to operate in these circumstances, especially when cities refuse to take any action (despite us paying taxes well above any other state we operate in). The city recently announced a reduction of police presence in this neighborhood, despite mass-scale crime.
“It makes me sad that I’m now avoiding San Francisco, a city I used to love. Last time my wife and I went in 2020, a drugged up person ran up to my wife’s face and started screaming some of the most obscene things I’ve ever heard. She was terrified. During a previous trip, my rental car was broken into and everything was stolen out of our trunk. When calling the police to report the theft, they let us know this happens hundreds of times per day in the city and said it was our own fault for parking in the street. I grew up in Latin America and spent much of my adult life there, and I never felt this unsafe there. Something has to change in San Francisco.”
Security experts added in interviews with the Globe that while many approaches are being stepped back from, such as the laxer criminal policies under former DA Chesa Boudin and police defunding, it currently isn’t happening fast enough.
“We’re taking steps in the right direction now finally, but we still aren’t going fast enough,” explained Frank Ma, a former law enforcement official who now works as a security advisor for businesses in the Bay Area, to the Globe on Tuesday. “And that CEO was right. We are all backed on filling security order right now. Right now, when I go out on a consultation, there are business owners nearby who ask me if I’m free for one despite being booked. It’s still rough out there.
“The unfortunate thing is that the SFPD needs to get more funding and more officers to help erase this problem, No one should have to worry about robberies like this, but obviously we do now. Store owners just can’t take it anymore, so they’re continuing to leave San Francisco. It’s a sad thing to see, especially for people who love this city.”
New San Francisco crime figures are expected to be released soon.
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