Rising Bay Area retail theft prompts San Mateo Co. supervisor to start task force

BySuzanne Phan KGO logo
Wednesday, August 30, 2023
Bay Area official wants to start task force amid rising retail theft
Bay Area retail theft prompts San Mateo County Supervisor David Canepa to start a regional task force to come up with solutions.

SAN MATEO, Calif. (KGO) -- Retail theft is a multi-billion dollar problem nationwide. But, it's hitting one community in the Bay Area particularly hard. Tuesday, one San Mateo County supervisor says he's not taking it anymore.

When it comes to cracking down on shoplifting, San Mateo County Supervisor David Canepa said he is open to all solutions.

He was considering a retail theft hotline. But then he scratched that idea. Canepa now wants to create a regional task force.

We've seen the dramatic video -- bold, brazen, brash shoplifters snatching hundreds, thousands of dollars of items in stores across the Bay Area.

It's happening all over the country. And the losses - are staggering.

VIDEO: SF Walgreens puts chains on freezers as shoplifters target store 20 times a day, employee says

Shoplifting continues to be an issue for stores across San Francisco. A Walgreens store put chains on its freezers to help stop the ongoing theft.

"Thirty-billion dollars in retail theft nationally is absolutely egregious, said David Canepa, San Mateo County Supervisor.

And it's really getting to be a problem in San Mateo County.

Bay Area shoplifting numbers increased from 2021 to 2022, but sit around the pre-pandemic average.

But in San Mateo County, the 2022 shoplifting numbers spiked significantly - 60% higher than the pre-pandemic average.

In June, at this Lego store at Hillsdale Shopping Center, thieves made off with more than $35,000 worth of toys.

MORE: 3 teens among 4 arrested after stealing fragrances from San Mateo Sephora: police

Just two days ago, at this Sephora store in the same mall, police say shoplifters stole $3,500 worth of perfume.

While arrests were made in both cases, Supervisor Canepa says we need a call to action.

"What we are doing right now is not working," said Canepa.

At the next board of supervisor's meeting, he's going to call for the creation of a regional task force to come up with solutions to the retail theft problem.

"This task force would be comprised of three groups -- sheriff. We have 20 cities in San Mateo County. It would be the chiefs, all the chambers of commerce," said Canepa.

MORE: CA Attorney General lays charges in statewide retail theft ring that hit several Bay Area counties

Canepa hopes to eventually expand the task force.

Right now, California has a CHP organized retail crime task force. It increases its presence at shopping centers especially during holidays.

That task force works with local law enforcement agencies to make arrests and heighten visibility.

Canepa says that's not enough.

"Now, it's reached a tipping point," said Canepa.

MORE: CHP cracking down on retail crime theft across state

Shoppers say something needs to be done to curb shoplifting crime.

"I don't think more of a police presence is the answer. Honestly, I would like to see a study conducted where this is coming and how to best help people," said Melissa Schwartz, a San Mateo resident.

Supervisor Canepa says he thought about trying to implement a retail theft hotline, after Los Angeles's mayor created one recently.

Canepa says when he called that hotline, it redirected him to 911.

Right now, he doesn't think a hotline would be the most effective use of resources.

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