"Organized retail crime continues to be a challenge facing retailers across San Francisco, and we are not immune to that. Retail theft across our San Francisco stores has continued to increase in the past few months to five times our chain average," Walgreens spokesman Phil Caruso says in a statement. He adds that the pharmacy chain has "increased [its] investments in security measures in stores across the city to 46 times our chain average in an effort to provide a safe environment."
Caruso notes that patients with prescription files in the five Walgreens locations do not need to take any action as their records will be forwarded to nearby locations within a one-mile radius. He adds that staff members from the five affected San Francisco stores will be deployed to other locations near their former assignments.
City Supervisor Ahsha Safai has expressed disappointment over the impending closures. He tweets: "I am completely devastated by this news. Walgreens is less than a mile from seven schools and has been a staple for seniors, families and children for decades." The supervisor representing San Francisco's District 11 adds that the closures "will significantly impact" the surrounding community.
"The city of San Francisco needs to act with a sense of urgency to reduce and deter the number of incidents of commercial retail theft," Safai says. (Related: San Francisco retail stores cease operations thanks to new law that decriminalizes shoplifting.)
In May, Safai said in an interview that organized shoplifting by criminal gangs has forced more than a dozen Walgreens stores to close over the past five years. "About 85 percent of the company's loss is committed by organized criminal activity. That to me was just shocking. They will rob about maybe $1,000 to $2,000 worth of goods from 10 stores or more in a single day," Safai said at the time.
One such instance of brazen theft occurred a month after Safai made his comments. The New York Post reported in June that a shoplifter pulled off a heist at a Walgreens branch in San Francisco. The perpetrator put items from the store in a garbage bag right in front of a security guard and another person who both simply took footage.
The footage of the theft has since become viral on social media.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed reacted to the viral video during an Oct. 13 news conference. "We all saw the person who rolled into a Walgreens on their bike and robbed that store, and that went viral across the world. What didn't go viral is the fact that this man was arrested by the San Francisco Police Department, is behind bars and is awaiting prosecution," he tells reporters.
The mayor also notes that the closure of the five Walgreens stores puts added pressure on each neighborhood. "That's going to be problematic for our city," Breed says. "We'll do what we can to improve the quality of life and safety in our city, and hopefully, they'll change their mind and come back." (Related: Businesses continue to shutter in San Francisco due to rampant shoplifting.)
CaliforniaCollapse.news has more articles about the rampant shoplifting that impacts businesses in San Francisco.