“Retail Theft” Closed in San Francisco Store

In mid-October, Walgreens announced the imminent closure of five San Francisco stores. According to the chain, “retail theft” has risen to unsustainable levels despite increased investment in security. It’s time to give up.

A few months before the announcement, a viral video of a shoplifting attempt at a Walgreens location in the city (including a man riding a bicycle from a store with a trash bag containing stolen goods) showed it. I put it in the center. A heated national debate over the fear of a “crime wave” caused by a pandemic.

To critics of San Francisco leaders, the closure seemed to confirm a long-held story by people outside and increasingly inside San Francisco: San Francisco, authorities look at crime It’s a lawless place that crushes and damages local businesses. Political leaders, including Mayor London Breed, pointed to Walgreens. “When places aren’t profitable and saturated-Walgreens has a lot of Walgreens locations in the city-I think other factors are involved,” Breed said. Told reporters..

However, neighborhood representatives and supporters of those involved in the legal system are drawing more complex pictures of Walgreens’ role in San Francisco and the city’s struggle against shoplifting in recent years.

They described the Walgreens store as an essential place for San Franciscan to get staple food at a reasonable price, medicine and other last-minute essentials. “We have seniors, working families, and long-time customers, which can be very confusing, especially for pattern-based seniors,” said Ahsha Safai.

Safai is the San Francisco Supervisory Board and represents the Excelsior district, historically just outside the Latin mission district. The neighborhood Walgreens, which closed on November 11, sat on a bustling Mission Street surrounded by clothing stores, banks, and local eateries. On Tuesday afternoon, a few weeks before the store closed, the store was lively, with seniors picking up essentials and residents waiting to be called to the pharmacy counter.

Many shoppers get off nearby bus routes to Walgreens, which is convenient for parking in areas with heavy traffic, Saffy said. Walking traffic from nearby stores is supplied to Walgreens and vice versa, and drugstores have become an important part of the nearby retail ecosystem.

Safai said he was working with police and community organizations to deal with retail crimes in the neighborhood. “For the worst people, there must be results. People need to know that they can’t enter the store with a trash bag,” he said.

“But we’re not going to get out of this problem,” he warned. “We have to turn people on the right path.”

“Walgreens was essential”

Gina Mullens’ father has worked in Walgreens for over 40 years, first in the Mission District and then in the East Bay. Recalling that she went on a picnic at the company she grew up in, she chose to shop at Walgreens instead of CVS because of her family’s long history at the company. “Walgreens is a big part of my life. It sounds awkward, but it nourishes my family.”

Related: Inside the San Francisco Bay Area pandemic murder surge: “We are the only ones who know this pain.”

Meulens now lives in East Bay and sees local Walgreens showing clear signs of fear of theft. More and more items are locked behind the plexiglass and some shelves are always empty. She is dissatisfied with the waiting time required to unlock the product to the clerk, but she does not unnecessarily judge the shoplifter. “I understand that no one makes decisions during difficult times. Do what you have to do to support your family.”

Prior to crossing Baybridge, Meulens worked in public housing near Walgreens on Cesar Chavez Street in the mission district. She was vaccinated against the flu there for her four children and got a kitchen staple at a lower price than a local chain grocery store. The location will be closed on November 17th.

“At least for my family, that Walgreens was essential,” Mullens said of the location of the mission district. “It’s closer than Safeway, has more merchandise than corner stores, and has a pharmacy. It was a staple, so it’s painful to see them shut down in a neighborhood that really needs them. “

Mullens works on a pretrial conversion project in San Francisco, a non-profit organization that aims to distract people from shoplifting. This program helps participants stay on top of court appearances and orders and connect them to employment, addiction, and other services that can prevent new accusations. Mullens works with groups that oversee staff and serve nonprofit clients.

The organization’s CEO, David Mauroff, said it was undeniable that people were stealing from drugstores, clothing stores and cars. Like many San Franciscans, Morov has a connection to Walgreens. “I don’t know how many times I came across to take cold medicine because my child couldn’t sleep,” he said of the chain’s Excelsior location.

Maurov has seen people shoplift at local stores. But he is worried that the high-profile incident is masking the decline in property crime reported by the city in 2020. And while there wasn’t an increase in clients coming to the organization, the San Francisco theft hotspot is a pandemic course.

“Few tourists and people commute by car. This is where the invasion was in the past. But because of Covid, people have to find another target, unfortunately it’s Walgreens or It has become another retail store. “

“We can’t be driven by hysteria”

Crime data is complex and often incomplete, and a comprehensive picture of what happened in the city during the pandemic still emerges. San Francisco has long recorded higher levels of property crime than other California cities, but recent data show that some categories of crime have increased, while others have decreased. It suggests that you are.

According to the San Francisco Police Department, theft, which is a category of shoplifting, decreased from 2019 to 2020, and overall property crimes seemed to decrease. Crime dashboard.. Crime such as rape and robbery also decreased in 2020.San Francisco Chronicle analysis Of the recent FBI data shown. According to the same FBI data, murder, car theft, and robbery all increased.

Shoplifting seems to continue to decline in 2021. In 2020, 12,266 cases were reported and about 380 people were arrested. data From the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office. As of the end of October 2021, about 200 people have been arrested for theft and theft this year, with 9,221 reports. By the end of September last year, there were already 9,558 reports.

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Viral like recording people invading a car near a tourist center like Fisherman’s Wharf, or a man biking from Walgreens, regardless of the disconnect between perception, data, and real-life experience. The video was forced to respond by the authorities.

In late September 2021, the mayor, along with the San Francisco police chief, Organized Retail Theft Investigation and Deterrence Strategy.. This initiative expands the city’s retail crime unit from two to five police officers. New employees coordinate with other law enforcement agencies, including off-duty officers hired by companies as private security companies through highway patrols in California and 10B in the city. programThe city also plans to triple the number of unarmed community ambassadors from eight to 25.

Maurov, CEO of the pretrial program, said police played a role in deterring and coping with shoplifting, while considering the need for individual rehabilitation and racial disparities in criminal justice, rather than being led solely by police. He said he proposed a solution. Take the system into account.

During the pandemic blockade, he said that treatment services such as the anger management class, which had previously proved useful, were only available remotely and for most detour program customers, especially those with unstable housing. Said that it was almost inaccessible.

“We don’t have to be driven by hysteria so that we can find a solution,” Morov said.

Charles Ryan, case manager for the Pretrial Diversion Project, argued that large companies like Walgreens also had a role to play.

Ryan lives in the San Francisco community, which has already experienced the closure of Walgreens due to “rambling” theft. Walgreens in the summer of 2019 Closed A store in Bayview Hunters Point, a historically black working-class district along the San Francisco Bay.

Ryan said he had seen shoplifters in the store, but lamented that he had not witnessed management’s efforts to make drugstores a respected part of the community. But black customers, he said, were chased around the store by employees who thought they had come to steal.

“The manager didn’t have to make a difference in how to treat the people who came in,” Ryan said. “People said, because no one was pressure-washed and kept clean. They didn’t treat us properly and did nothing for the neighborhood.”

“It’s bad to close other places because we’re closing some of the neighborhoods where people have to go across the town to get what they need,” he continues. I did. “You’re just closing it because some people were stealing it.”