A Safeway supermarket in the Castro District of San Francisco just announced that it would be going from a 24/7 operation to closing early at 9 PM in an effort to deter shoplifters, becoming the latest chain store to make drastic changes in the city’s current retail crime wave.
According to a Safeway spokeswoman, the store will also be removing self-checkout lines as well as other operational changes due to the thefts.
“As an ongoing effort, we evaluate and adjust our store operations based on a variety of variables that impact our operations,” said Safeway spokeswoman Wendy Gutshall during the weekend. “We recently modified the Castro Safeway store hours of operation to close at 9:00 p.m. due to an increasing amount of theft at the store. We have also made some operational changes to the front end of the store to deter shoplifting.”
Like most other retail stores in the city, the Castro District Safeway has made other anti-theft changes to the store in the past, including moving all of it’s shopping carts indoors during the summer following 160 carts being stolen in a few weeks.
For the past several years, many businesses have had to rely on increasing the number of anti-theft measures deployed in stores, or outright moving out of the city together. In the last two years, this problem has accelerated with chains like Target and Walgreens removing handfuls of heir stores from the city due to the crime rate.
Locals, as well as many storeowners, have largely blames the passage of Prop 47 and Chesa Boudin being elected as District Attorney. Proposition 47, which passed in 2014, 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. Chesa Boudin, sworn in as DA in early 2020, instituted a policy of not prosecuting most criminals, as well as focusing on prosecuting more police officers. Combined, this led to a huge rise in crime that forced retailers to take the situation into their own hands.
A continuing crime wave in the City by the Bay
Although stores and citizens private security companies, proposed city legislation, and a recall effort against Boudin have all been implemented to help reduce crime and replace current criminal policy, the lack of any of options available now is continuing to spur closures and hour reductions.
Following the Safeway announcement, City Supervisor Rafael Mandelman noted that The Church and Market Safeway is one of few affordable grocery options for people living in and around the Castro. A reduction in their operating hours will make it harder for working people to get groceries for themselves and their families, and will have a huge impact on the lives of the store’s employees whose hours will be cut. Shoplifting at this location is out of control and I have met with Safeway to better understand the issues at this store. I am convening a meeting with the SFPD and District Attorney’s office to see what is currently being done to deter theft at Safeway, and to figure out a plan to do better.
“I think like a lot of retailers they’ve been experiencing increasing property crime and theft from their stores. I think the last 6 months from what they say has been sort of – off the charts in terms of how bad it’s been. It’s sad, upsetting and frustrating. It’s an equity problem. There’s a lot of low-income folks, seniors, folks with disability, who rely on that Safeway and other Safeways around the city.”
I am convening a meeting with the SFPD and District Attorney’s office to see what is currently being done to deter theft at Safeway, and to figure out a plan to do better. This store is one of few affordable grocery options for people living in and around the Castro. (2)
— Rafael Mandelman (@RafaelMandelman) October 29, 2021
On Monday, Castro District residents agreed that the Safeway was one of the few remaining affordable options, and were outraged at the cut hours.
“It’s one of the last reasonable places to get groceries by foot,” explained Charles Cavanaugh, a resident of the Castro for 50 years. “And it serves a lot of working people who can only shop there by night.”
“We’ve witnessed a lot of change here through the years. The Castro was a bastion for the gay community in the 70’s with Harvey Milk and everyone, was one of the few places to get help for AIDS in the 80’s, held out on the dotcom boom in the 90s, was revitalized in the 00’s, and held out again for the 10’s tech boom. The Castro has always held its ground. Except for now, where stores are now doing this instead of the people going against this new threat.”
“Boudin broke the Castro.”
More store closures and reduction in hours announcements are expected in the coming weeks and months at other businesses in the city.
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