San Francisco repeat offenders responsible for retail theft, police say

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The San Francisco Police Department says hundreds of repeat offenders are responsible for shoplifting in the city.

Videos of shoplifters are just one of the ways the San Francisco Police Department investigates retail theft. Whereas the images help investigators, they hurt the people who are there in real time.

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"It causes stress for the employees, it causes stress for the people that are shopping," said San Francisco Supervisor Ahsha Safai.

Safai recently requested the police department and district attorney provide him information on organized retail theft.

Police Chief William Scott and District Attorney Chesa Boudin responded with letters.

According to Chief Scott, SFPD keeps records of repeat shoplifting offenders.

In 2018, there were 238 repeat offenders, 20% of them were rearrested. In 2019, there were 219 repeat offenders, 29% of them rearrested.

While in 2020, there were 116 repeat offenders -- 33% rearrested.

"That had everything to do with businesses being closed and COVID. So 2020 was more of an aberration, I think, if we look at 2021 it's back on the increase," said Safai.

Supervisor Safai points specifically to video ABC7 News Reporter Lyanne Melendez took of a shoplifter on a bicycle.

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



"That individual had a series of prior arrests and prior offenses for the exact same type of crime," said Safai.

Lt. Tracy McCray is vice president of the San Francisco Police Officers Association.

"Unless we're right there on the spot and are able to catch them in the act, we have to go through other steps of the investigation," said McCray.

"Sometimes we're able to do it quickly and other times it may take a while," she continued.

In his response to Supervisor Safai, DA Boudin writes, the standard for prosecution is much higher than the standard for arrest.

He also writes the wide variety of criminal law violations that can result in a retail theft arrest and prosecution makes it difficult to provide exact statistics for these cases.

"I had a good conversation with the district attorney before he submitted his letter and I said to him we're all responsible for this current environment, we are all accountable," said Safai.

A spokesperson for the DA's Office said the DA was not available for an interview.

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Police are investigating a case of shoplifting at Neiman Marcus in San Francisco's Union Square, where a group of suspects bolted out the store with designer bags in hand before jumping into waiting cars.



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