Walgreens has closed 17 stores in Nancy Pelosi's police-defunded San
Francisco due to 'out of control' shoplifting
Posted by: Lizzy Murica | May 17, 2021
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - Thanks to widespread and persistent shoplifting, 17 Walgreens Pharmacy locations have shuttered in San Francisco during the past five years.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, shoplifting did decrease during
the coronavirus pandemic, but police also told the news outlet that
"incidents are often underreported and have become more violent and brazen."
San Francisco Supervisor Ahsha Safaí told the San Francisco Chronicle that
the situation is "out of control," adding: "People are scared to go into these stores -- seniors, people with
disabilities, children. It's just happening brazenly."
Longtime Walgreens customer Sebastian Luke told the Chronicle regarding closures: "All of us knew it was coming. Whenever we go in there, they
always have problems with shoplifters."
Luke also suggested that the employees at Walgreens are helpless to do
anything in the face of the thefts, saying: "I feel sorry for the clerks,
they are regularly being verbally assaulted."
He continued: "The clerks say there is nothing they can do. They say Walgreens' policy is to not get involved.
"They don't want anyone getting injured or getting sued, so the guys just
keep coming in and taking whatever they want."
In fact, a shoplifting incident occurred right in front of San Francisco Chronicle writer Phil Matier, as he was working on a story about "rampant shoplifting" and Walgreens closures.
Matier reported: "No sooner had the clerk spoken than a man wearing a virus mask walked in, emptied two shelves of snacks into a bag, then headed back
for the door.
"As he walked past the checkout line, a customer called out, 'Sure you don't want a drink with that?'"
In order to address the ongoing problem of shoplifting at retail
establishments like Walgreens, Supervisor Ahsha Safaí held a hearing
Thursday, May 13, with retailers, police, District Attorney Chesa Boudin,
and probation departments.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that retailers at the hearing pointed
the finger at "professional thieves instead of opportunistic shoplifters who may be driven by poverty."
A representative from CVS also termed San Francisco "a hub of organized
Jason Cunningham, regional vice president for pharmacy and retail operations
in California and Hawaii, reported at the hearing that theft in San
Francisco Walgreens locations is four times higher than in stores elsewhere
in the country.
In addition, Cunningham noted that the pharmacy chain spends 35 times more
on security in San Francisco than in other locations.
Brendan Dugan, director of organized retail crime and corporate
investigations for CVS Pharmacy, also attended the hearing. He reported
that 42% of CVS's losses in the Bay Area are from 12 stores in San
Francisco, yet those stores only represent 8% of the market share.
Dugan added that it was "professional crime" that accounted for 85% of CVS's losses. He called San Francisco "one of the 'epicenters' of organized
retail crime," reminding those present of a major retail theft ring bust in October of 2020, in which over $8 million of stolen merchandise was
That merchandise came, in part, from Walgreens and CVS.
In another take at the hearing on the origin of the thefts, retail grocery chain Safeway placed blame for "dramatic increases" in shoplifting on the passage of Proposition 47 in 2014.
California's Prop. 47 amended the California penal code, Section 490.2, to lower penalties for certain thefts. It now reads that theft of property
valued at less than $950 is punishable as a misdemeanor with a fine of up to $1000 or six months in jail.
The Washington Examiner reports that many California prosecutors also "have opted to free those charged with the offense under certain conditions rather than holding them in jail for the maximum sentence of six months."
In addition, as we reported last year, San Francisco DA Chesa Boudin has refused to prosecute "low level" crimes like shoplifting.
As a result, would-be shoplifters appear to face the prospect of minimal if
any consequences -- if they are caught at all.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that in 2020, only about "31% of shoplifting incidents resulted in arrest," a number that has decreased over
the past two years.
Both CVS and Walgreens train their employees to "be engaged and visible to prevent theft, but not to confront thieves directly when it could turn violent."
Some stores have hired loss-prevention personnel at significant expense, up
to $1000 per day, but according to Dugan, security guards at CVS have been assaulted.
In addition, most shoplifters have fled the area before police have time to arrive, and according to Jay Cheng, public policy director for the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, loss prevention personnel will not detain shoplifters for fear of liability.
Liability concerns do not even have to involve physical contact. According
to the Wall Street Journal, several retail establishments in California have been sued by people who were caught shoplifting and claimed they were
In addition to organized criminals, the homeless and the poor comprise
another group that has been named as responsible for a lot of the frequent thefts from retail stores such as Walgreens.
Deputy District Attorney Matthew Donahue has called the increasing
shoplifting indicative of "a lot of the issues we're facing as a city: homelessness, poverty, drug addiction."
Donahue reported to The Davis Vanguard that some of the people struggling
with these issues habitually take only what they need from stores, while
others steal more items in hope that they can sell them and raise money for their families.
The focus of shoplifting investigations, Deputy DA Donahue told The Davis Vanguard in March, will not be on them, but instead "only on stopping
serious, repeat offenders, especially violent ones."
The Davis Vanguard further reports that Donahue and his team have
collaborated with a consulting firm to work through over 100 shoplifting incidents and identify and apprehend repeat shoplifters.
As of March, from those 100 plus incidents, four warrants had been issued
and two serial shoplifters had been arrested.