Walgreens closing 5 more San Francisco stores over shoplifting fears


NBC News 14 October, 2021 - 09:10am 2 views

How many Walgreens stores closed in San Francisco?

Walgreens has reportedly closed nearly 10 stores in San Francisco since 2019. The drug store chain closed one location in the city last year that lost nearly $1,000 a day to theft. Widely circulated video and images of shoplifting has highlighted the problem, according to The Associated Press. The HillWalgreens closing more stores in San Francisco due to organized theft | TheHill

One of the stores was targeted at least five times by the same man, who drew widespread attention for raiding the store on a bike and was later arrested, the authorities said.

A security guard and a television reporter were recording him, but the thief was undeterred, raiding a Walgreens store in San Francisco on a bicycle, a garbage bag in hand filled with stolen merchandise.

Millions watched a video of the brazen shoplifting in June, which critics said illustrated the epidemic of store thefts that had bedeviled retailers across the city. It was at least the fifth time that the man, who was later arrested on a raft of burglary and theft charges, had targeted that particular Walgreens store, on Gough Street in the Hayes Valley neighborhood, the authorities said.

Now, four months later, Walgreens says it will close that store and four others in San Francisco next month, citing what it described as a continuing problem of “organized” shoplifting in the city.

“Organized retail crime continues to be a challenge facing retailers across San Francisco,” Phil Caruso, a spokesman for Walgreens, said in an email on Wednesday. “Retail theft across our San Francisco stores has continued to increase in the past few months to five times our chain average.”

Walgreens said its San Francisco stores had been targeted by professional thieves who resell the goods they steal, mainly through online marketplaces. The San Francisco Chronicle has reported that law enforcement officials have attributed much of the city’s retail crime to organized theft rings.

In addition to the store at 300 Gough Street, the Walgreens locations that are closing are at 2550 Ocean Avenue; 4645 Mission Street; 745 Clement Street; and 3400 Cesar Chavez Street, the company said.

Walgreens representatives previously said at a board of supervisors hearing in May that it had closed 17 stores, largely because thefts had made doing business at those locations untenable.

Ahsha Safaí, a member of the San Francisco board of supervisors, said on Twitter on Tuesday that the closure of the Walgreens store at 4645 Mission Street would leave a tremendous void.

“I am completely devastated by this news — this Walgreens is less than a mile from seven schools and has been a staple for seniors, families and children for decades,” Mr. Safaí said. The city, he added, “needs to act with a sense of urgency to reduce and deter the number of incidents of commercial retail theft.”

Walgreens said it had increased its “investments in security measures” at its San Francisco stores “to 46 times our chain average in an effort to provide a safe environment.”

The office of Mayor London Breed of San Francisco did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

A spokeswoman for Chesa Boudin, the San Francisco district attorney, said in an email on Wednesday that, in addition to prosecuting shoplifting cases, the office had been working with the California Highway Patrol and ALTO, an organization that works to address retail theft.

“Our office takes retail theft very seriously and we have taken several steps in the last year to better prevent and prosecute these crimes,” the spokeswoman, Sara Yousuf, said. “Last year, our Retail Theft Taskforce worked with law enforcement partners in an operation that led to the recovery of more than $8 million in stolen items.”

Ms. Yousuf said that the city was making progress in addressing such thefts.

“While larceny rates in San Francisco are lower than they were in 2019, District Attorney Boudin is committed to working every day to make San Francisco even safer,” she said.

A spokesman for the San Francisco Police Department referred questions on the matter to Walgreens.

The closures, which are scheduled for November, will bring the number of Walgreens stores that have been shuttered in San Francisco in recent years to 22, according to the company. Walgreens has more than 50 stores in the city, The Chronicle reported.

Walgreens disclosed in an August 2019 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it would be closing 200 locations in the United States as part of a cost-savings initiative.

Employees at the five San Francisco stores that are closing next month will continue to work at other Walgreens locations, and customers will have their prescriptions transferred to nearby stores, the company said.

On June 19, the San Francisco Police Department said that it had arrested the man in the shoplifting video that was recorded at the Walgreens location on Gough Street. Investigators said that they connected the man, Jean Lugo-Romero, 40, to a string of thefts from merchants in the Northern and Mission districts.

Mr. Lugo-Romero faces robbery and burglary charges in connection with five separate occasions in which he targeted the Walgreens store on Gough Street, including on four consecutive days in late May and early June, the authorities said.

It was not immediately clear whether Mr. Lugo-Romero had a lawyer. The San Francisco Public Defender’s office in San Francisco did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

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San Francisco deputies could work security under proposal to address shoplifting

KTVU San Francisco 14 October, 2021 - 12:40pm

To curb shoplifting at pharmacies and other businesses, there are calls to let San Francisco sheriff's deputies make extra money as security guards. 

The idea, proposed by San Francisco Supervisor Ahsha Safai, would let off-duty deputies moonlight as private guards. Currently, only off-duty police officers can take a second job in security. Businesses would pay the deputies' wages.

The proposal comes after Walgreens announced the closure of another 5 stores in San Francisco due to alleged rampant theft.

Upon hearing the news, Safai said the closures would severely impact children, families and seniors, many of whom get their prescription medications from Walgreens pharmacies.

"I am completely devastated by this news. This closure will significantly impact this community. This Walgreens is less than a mile from seven schools and has been a staple for families and children for decades," he said of the Mission Street location. "The city needs to act with a sense of urgency to reduce and deter the number of incidents of commercial retail theft."

SEE ALSO: Amid surge in retail thefts, San Francisco pledges to crack down on retail theft

Last month, Scott and Mayor London Breed announced a series of new initiatives that would address retail thefts, including among others, expanding the Police Department's Organized Retail Crime Unit and recruiting more retired police officers to patrol neighborhoods.

The frustration and fear have been fueled by widely circulating images of shoplifting caught on video

This summer, shoplifters in masks carrying armfuls of designer handbags sprinted from a downtown Neiman Marcus department store and into getaway cars. In June, a masked man was caught on video at a Walgreens, stuffing items into a trash bag before cruising out of the store on a bicycle.

If the supervisor's legislation is approved, deputies could be hired as security guards as early as November.

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Walgreens closing five SF stores because of thefts

San Francisco Examiner 14 October, 2021 - 12:40pm

Two of the biggest employers in Texas, American Airlines Group and Southwest Airlines Co., said they would not follow the executive order signed by Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday banning COVID-19 vaccine mandates in the Lone Star state, because as federal contractors, they are bound to comply with President Joe Biden's requirement.

Claudia Assis is a San Francisco-based reporter for MarketWatch. Follow her on Twitter @ClaudiaAssisMW.

Walgreens to Close 5 More Stores in San Francisco

KQED 14 October, 2021 - 12:40pm

Drugstore chain Walgreens plans to close five of its San Francisco stores next month, claiming rampant theft as the primary reason.

"Due to ongoing organized retail crime, we have made the difficult decision to close five stores across San Francisco," a Walgreens spokesperson said in a statement Tuesday. "Retail theft across our San Francisco stores has continued to increase in the past few months to five times our chain average."

The announcement comes as a blow to a city grappling to shed its reputation for being plagued by widespread and brazen shoplifting — despite recent reports showing a drop in retail theft.

The stores slated for closure include:

Walgreens said it would transfer all pending drug prescriptions at the closing stores to its other stores within a mile away, and "expect[s] to place the stores’ team members in other nearby locations."

Some observers, however, are questioning the company's motivations, pointing to a July report on public safety from the San Francisco Police Department showing that thefts, including those at retail stores, have actually dropped by 9% compared to the same time last year.

"Not every crime is reported, but we can only go by what we know: It's been a steady decrease," SFPD Police Chief Bill Scott said in July.

Scott said a stream of recent viral videos and news coverage of crime in San Francisco are contributing to a false perception of lawlessness and have furthered the liberal city’s image as being soft on crime.

"The statistics are counter to the narrative," he said.

In a series of tweets on Wednesday, San Francisco Supervisor Dean Preston, whose district includes the 300 Gough St. location, suggested the store closures might actually be part of the company's previously announced national consolidation plan, rather the result of retail theft.

"This store serves important needs of neighborhood residents. Media reports have accepted without analysis Walgreens' assertion that it's closing due to retail theft," Preston tweeted. "So is Walgreens closing stores because of theft or because of a pre-existing business plan to cut costs and increase profits by consolidating stores and shifting customers to online purchases?"

In an August 2019 Securities and Exchange Commission filing, Walgreens announced its intentions to shutter roughly 200 stores across the U.S. as a cost-savings measure. The company did not, however, reveal the locations it was considering.

A Walgreens spokesperson told KPIX on Wednesday that those cuts had already been made prior to this week's announcement.

Walgreens has already closed at least 10 stores in the city since the start of 2019, according to SF Gate, which first reported the newest round of closures. Among them was the 790 Van Ness Ave. location, in the Tenderloin neighborhood, which the company shuttered in October 2020, after saying it was losing up to $1,000 every day in stolen merchandise, the company told The San Francisco Chronicle.

San Francisco Supervisor Ahsha Safai called the planned store closures a major hit to children, families and seniors, particularly residents with lower incomes in his district, many of whom rely on Walgreens for their prescription medications and other basic necessities.

"I am completely devastated by this news. This closure will significantly impact this community," Safai said of the Mission Street store, in the Excelsior neighborhood, which he represents. "This Walgreens is less than a mile from seven schools and has been a staple for families and children for decades."

Safai recently proposed legislation that he hopes will reduce theft and prevent more stores from closing, and said he has been working directly with Walgreens and other retailers on the issue.

His legislation would amend the city's administrative code to allow sheriff's deputies to contract with businesses, private events and community benefits districts to provide security. Private companies would pay the deputies' overtime at no cost to taxpayers.

"The city needs to act with a sense of urgency to reduce and deter the number of incidents of commercial retail theft," Safai said.

In a statement, San Francisco Sheriff Paul Miyamoto said he supported the legislation.

"Our office and members support the legislation that will allow for [sheriff's office] staff to have a presence in stores and businesses to keep everyone safe and reduce opportunities to commit crimes," he said. "It is important to help keep stores in our community for access not just to retail outlets, but pharmacies and medical services they host or provide."

Safai also has convened a commercial retail theft working group, which includes Police Chief Scott and District Attorney Chesa Boudin, to make policy recommendations.

Last month, Scott and Mayor London Breed announced a series of new initiatives to address retail theft, including expanding the police department's retail crime unit, recruiting more retired police officers to patrol neighborhoods and making it easier to report shoplifting.

"We care about criminal justice reform. We care about second chances. We care about making sure that people are not wrongly accused," said Breed in announcing the new measures. "But don’t take our kindness for weakness, our compassion for weakness."

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