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

ABC7 News reporter Luz Pena witnessed multiple shoplifters on a visit to the Walgreens store

Luz Pena Image
Tuesday, July 18, 2023
SF Walgreens puts chains on freezers to stop shoplifters
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.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Shoplifting continues to be an issue for stores across San Francisco.

Shoplifting crimes increased by 20% in San Francisco from pre-pandemic stats in 2019 to 2022, according to the state department of justice.

Now, a Walgreens in the city's Richmond District is locking its freezers with chains in response.

MORE: Thief steals garbage bag full of items from SF Walgreens with security filming in plain sight

Cell phone video taken Monday shows some of the brazen crime that has been driving retailers out of San Francisco.

ABC7 News reporter Luz Pena went to the Richmond District to see it first hand and spoke to workers and business owners in the area.

It didn't take long. Within the first hour of being at Walgreens on Geary Boulevard at 17th Avenue in San Francisco, we witnessed multiple shoplifters.

One of them even took the time to explain why he simply didn't pay: "It's San Francisco, Bro."

MORE: Man seen stealing from SF Walgreens in viral video last year arrested, accused of shoplifting at CVS

Off camera a Walgreens employee told me they are hit 15 to 20 times a day. Out of frustration a week and a half ago they decided to chain up their freezer section.

The freezers are one of the hardest hit aisles in their store. Now, when you want something you have to press a button. A message goes off on the overhead speaker and an employee comes to unlock the freezer.

According to the employee we spoke to company policy says they can't challenge shoplifters, but a customer has.

"Sometimes I have stopped people myself. It just frustrates me so much to see the neighborhood fall apart and to have to ask somebody to unlock things," said Justin Van Zandt, San Francisco Resident.

Almost every aisle has products locked behind plastic cases. We asked what the brown marks were and turns out shoplifters have tried to burn the cases. A vendor who did not want his face on camera said he saw 4 shoplifters in the couple hours he was working at the store.

"They just help themselves. The problem is that they are not punished," said the vendor.

MORE: SF Walgreens stores average 4x more thefts than rest of country, company says

After a viral video of a robbery taking place right in front of security in a San Francisco Walgreens, the company says this is not a new problem for them in the city.

SFPD's Sergeant O'meara was on foot patrol outside the store.

"It's getting worse. Yes because more and more people are coming into the West side of the city on the 38 bus line and they are getting off and they are stealing out of this store," said Sergeant O'meara.

He did not want his face on camera but said he detained 8 people shoplifting yesterday.

Sergeant O'meara: "People were getting into the store and taking products. If they cross the door if they cross the threshold we can put them under arrest. The 8 people we took on yesterday. 7 of them returned the items. Basically all 8 returned the items. There was a problem with 1 of them."

Luz Pena: "Did you arrest anybody?"

Sergeant O'meara: "No because the store didn't wish to put citizen arrest on them. They just wanted their product back."

MORE: New anti-theft gates installed at several SF Safeway locations

Sliding barriers at the self-checkout area that open when a receipt is scanned are now at Safeway stores in the Fillmore and the Outer Mission.

Walgreens is not the only store that's been victimized by crime here.

Across from it is Cigarettes Cheaper. They were burglarized a month ago. The owner said he lost over $100K in merchandise and cash.

"I hope that somebody pays attention. You know to stop this. We can't afford it. As a small business we can't afford $100 thousand dollars. Somebody came and took it and nobody did anything about it. It's really hard for us," said Ehsan Aman, owner of Cigarettes Cheaper.

And two days before that break-in, a coffee shop across the street was also hit.

"The city, the mayor. They don't do anything. Nobody pays attention. Nobody does anything. I don't know why. What do we do? We have no choice," said Aman.

We contacted the National Retail federation and they confirmed that San Francisco is not the only city that is getting hit by crime.

According to their data, San Francisco and Oakland ranked #2 in the list of top areas affected by Organized Retail Crime.

SF Supervisor Connie Chan represents the Richmond district. Her office sent the following statement:

"As a member of the Board of Supervisors of the Legislative Branch of City Government, bound by Charter Section 2.11, I cannot interfere with the daily operations of the Administration, so I must defer to the Mayor, and Police Chief Bill Scott to inform us of their strategies for crime prevention. However, as District 1 Supervisor and Chair of the Budget Committee, the safety and security of my constituents and neighbors is of utmost importance. The budget, being voted on today by the Board of Supervisors, includes an increase to the Police Department overall budget and added deployment to the Richmond with retired police officer ambassadors. I will continue to hold the police department accountable so they can deliver meaningful public safety with the public dollars that we have entrusted them."

We contacted Walgreens for comment and have not received a response.

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