Here's how Union Square's security is beefed up among shops and crowds this year

BySuzanne Phan KGO logo
Sunday, December 18, 2022
Here's how Union Square's security is beefed up among crowds this year
Malls are packed, stores are bustling, and shoppers are making a mad dash for holiday gifts this weekend.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Malls are packed, stores are bustling, and shoppers are making a mad dash for holiday gifts this weekend.

And security is significantly beefed up in places like Union Square after thieves hit several stores in the area last year.

On Saturday, thousands of people were taking it all in at Union Square.

The one thing many people are noticing is the extra security.

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"I noticed them in the candy store. Noticed them in Macy's. Noticed them in the Louis Vuitton store," said Iyasha Osborne from Sacramento

This year in Union Square, there are police officers, undercover officers, SFPD Community Ambassadors and some stores have twice as much security.

That's comforting for some shoppers, especially in light of what happened last year when a gang of organized thieves ransacked some big named stores and made off with thousands of dollars in merchandise.

SFPD community ambassador Glenn Ortega remembers that day. He and his partner had just signed off for the night and returned back to the police station.

MORE: EXCLUSIVE: $178K worth of camera equipment stolen in armed robbery at store near SF's Union Square

Nearly $180,000 in merchandise was stolen from a camera shop in a lightning-fast armed robbery near San Francisco's Union Square.

But there have been some big changes in the past year.

"What they've done after that night -- the city, mayor, police chief -- they've all dedicated (resources). If you walk in a eight-to-nine block radius of here, there's cops on every corner," Ortega said.

Former police officers Glenn Ortega Mary Burns are now walking the streets around Union Square -- keeping a close eye on every corner and on the crowds.

"If we see something, we are able to communicate with officers in the area," said Burns.

MORE: 'Very festive': SF Union Square's holiday spirit is back after last year's robberies

They say it makes a big difference.

"On the back of our jackets it does say SFPD," said Burns. "We will tell them we are all retired police officers, and we're out here to help people feel safer. Just our presence just makes some problems go away."

Weeks ago, Mayor London Breed announced that 150 new SFPD community ambassadors would be added around the city of San Francisco.

The program has expanded beyond Union Square to Chinatown, fisherman's wharf, and the Castro District.

MORE: '8,000 hours of overtime': Increased patrols in Union Square is putting a strain on SFPD

Law enforcement authorities say dozens more ambassadors will be added to more neighborhoods like the Fillmore and Hayes Valley, next year.

Back to Union Square, for those checking items off their Christmas list...

"It has been a wonderful experience shopping," said Jenny Wroblicky.

And for those soaking up the spirit of the holidays...

"Yeah. It's good energy," Osborne said.

There's a lot more good times to be had by all.

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