SF's Union Square bouncing back this holiday season with increased police patrols

Luz Pena Image
Saturday, November 25, 2023
SF's Union Square bouncing back this holiday season: Here's how
Shoppers are back in San Francisco's Union Square. A promising sign that city officials and law enforcement have been working towards.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- It's Black Friday and shoppers are back in San Francisco's Union Square. A promising sign that city officials and law enforcement have been working towards.

ABC7 news reporter Luz Pena went to the area to see the difference just two years since thieves stole thousands of dollars during the holidays.

"This is a nice place. Especially this holiday time with my kids," said Andrew Zavgorodniy.

His 6-year-old son, Anthony Zavgorodniy had one attraction in mind.

Luz Pena: "What do you like about Union Square?"

Anthony Zavgorodniy: "The tree is so big!"

The 83-feet tall Macy's tree was lite up two weeks ago, the ice rink opened Nov. 1 and businesses on the Square are seeing the uptick in foot traffic.

"Since this past week, it has been onwards and upwards. We have been getting busier and busier every day. Obviously this is Black Friday so there is just a lot of energy here today. You have seen it and we've just haven't stopped. Every time we get a few people leaving, there is five more people coming in. We've been busy and I think everywhere it's been busy," said Bob Moore, General Manager for Miller & Lux provisions in Union Square.

MORE: Annual outdoor holiday ice rink returns to San Francisco Union Square

The holiday ice skating rink is now open in San Francisco.

A different sight just two years since chaos ensued in this San Francisco shopping district with thieves stealing close to $300K worth of merchandise. Today, San Francisco police officers are in almost every corner.

"We've had a heavier presence since, and you have seen the number of shoppers steadily increase over the last two years," said SFPD Sergeant Kathryn Winters.

That police presence was tested last month when around 6:30 a.m., a vehicle smashed into the Dior store in Union Square. Police arrested three suspects moments later.

"You can expect to see officers basically walking the beat around Union Square. We are out here making sure that everyone has a safe and enjoyable shopping experience," said Sergeant Winters.

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San Francisco recently received $17 million in a grant specifically to combat retail theft and $15 million for more police patrols.

David Pak from Castro Valley was visiting Union Square with his family and noticed the difference.

"There are a lot of cops out here so it's pretty safe out here," said Pak.

MORE: 3 arrested after $275K in merchandise stolen during smash-and-grab theft SF Dior store, police say

Mayor London Breed says she's hoping to help tackle some of San Francisco's ongoing problems with the help of retired police officers.

Another factor that could be helping Union Square bounce back is APEC.

At the Hilton Hotel, they are seeing an uptick in reservation this holiday season.

"APEC - The perception on the cleanliness and just San Francisco shinning in our neighborhood in Union Square, there is definitely a vibrancy and there is a good buzz. It feels like the city has been in the best shape it has been in a long time," said Peter Hart, Complex hotel Manager for Hilton San Francisco Union Square.

The Hilton is also offering special holiday packages, "We have stay-and-skate packages that we are doing to promote people coming to skate in the Union square ice screen and stay with us overnight," said Hart.

MORE: Everything you need to know about Black Friday 2023

Tourist Barbara and Jerry are leaving San Francisco with different perception of the city.

"We were in New York a couple weeks ago and New York has nothing over San Francisco. This time of the year," said Jerry Maynard.

Empty storefronts are still a sign that more work is still needed for Union Square to fully recover.

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