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

Lyanne Melendez Image
Wednesday, June 16, 2021
Walgreens says SF stores robbed 4x more than rest of country
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.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- If you live in San Francisco, you've probably witnessed a so-called "organized retail theft." That's when a person or several people come into a store prepared to shoplift openly, without regard to who's watching.

ABC7 News reporter Lyanne Melendez caught one the moment it was happening. It shows a man shoplifting items inside a Walgreens in San Francisco before taking off on a Lyft bicycle. He was never stopped.

VIDEO: 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.

Today Walgreens emailed us to say the company has told members of the Board of Supervisors that theft in their San Francisco stores is four times the average of their stores across the country. They also spend 35 times more on security guards in San Francisco.

"And even if somebody does get arrested, we can all talk about the track record of the D.A.'s office," said Tony Montoya of the Police Officers' Association, who has criticized that office for failing to prosecute certain robberies.

The District Attorney's office did not respond to our requests for an interview. But this doesn't fall only on that office. We were told by a former District Attorney spokesperson that the perception among most shoplifters is that they won't get caught.

RELATED: Rash of car break-ins in SF's Union Square garage after city cut security staff

The Public Policy Institute of California compiled numbers showing San Francisco has the lowest arrest rate of any police department in California.

"That answer does speak to staffing. I mean it's direct and this is not an excuse, this is a reality. In order for us to be at these locations when these things happen, the officers have to have time to be there," explained San Francisco Police Chief William Scott.

In 1994, voters passed Proposition D, which mandated that there be 1,971 full duty officers. San Francisco has never reached that goal.

"With retirement and people leaving, it could take upward of a decade to recover," added Montoya.

RELATED: SF school board approves eliminating SFPD officers at public schools

Last year the Board of Supervisors made changes to the police department's budget, which resulted in police academy classes being cut.

This time, the mayor is proposing an increase in their budget and urged supervisors to support it.

"Don't come out in solidarity to support a community and then cut away the kinds of solution that will help address those challenges. This is a community that wants more and we need to do better by them," said Mayor London Breed

Walgreens and other retail stores expect the same from the city. Walgreens, for example, has closed 17 stores in San Francisco in the past five years.