Law enforcement officials have attributed much of the city’s retail crime to organized theft rings. But public defenders and social justice advocates have argued that many people charged with retail theft act alone — many of them suffering from poverty, homelessness or substance abuse, and needing rehabilitation or other services.
A Chronicle analysis found that shoplifting dropped dramatically at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, then picked up again in the summer of 2020 as stores reopened. By April of this year, shoplifting incidents were still well below pre-pandemic rates, the Chronicle analysis found.
The closures will bring to 22 the number of Walgreens stores closed in San Francisco in the past five years. Caruso said Walgreens is bolstering security measures in its remaining 50-plus city locations. In a Securities and Exchange Commission filing before the pandemic, Walgreens announced plans to close about 200 stores across the U.S. to help cut costs but did not disclose the locations.
Shoplifting has become a heated issue, partly fueled by a viral video of a person brazenly putting items into a garbage bag and bicycling out of a Walgreens, past a security guard, in June.
In a hearing last spring involving city officials, police and retailers, Jason Cunningham, Walgreens’ regional vice president for pharmacy and retail operations in California and Hawaii, said theft at the chain’s San Francisco stores was four times the average of stores in other parts of the country.
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Caruso said that’s now increased to five times the national average, and Walgreens spends far more on security for its San Francisco stores than its stores in other areas.
The closing stores are at 2550 Ocean Ave., 4645 Mission St., 745 Clement St., 300 Gough St. and 3400 Cesar Chavez St. Prescriptions will be transferred to other Walgreens locations within a mile of the closing stores. Employees are expected to be transferred to nearby Walgreens stores, Caruso said.
The Gough Street location was the site of the June theft captured on the video that went viral.
Supervisor Ahsha Safaí said he was “completely devastated” by Walgreens’ latest closure plans. On Twitter, he called the Mission Street store “a staple for seniors, families and children for decades.”
“The city needs to act with a sense of urgency to reduce and deter the number of incidents of commercial retail theft,” Safaí said.aside">