San Francisco has become a shoplifter’s paradise — with thieves like the one caught on video looting a Walgreens emboldened by relaxed punishment for the crime as businesses shutter, cops say.
The Walgreens heist, which happened right in front of a security guard, renewed the debate over a controversial city law called Proposition 47.
“What happened in that Walgreens has been going on in that city for quite a while,” San Francisco police Lt. Tracy McCray said on Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom” Wednesday.
“I’m used to it,” McCray continued. “I mean, we can have a greatest hits compilation of people just walking in and cleaning out the store shelves and security guards, the people who work there, just standing by helplessly because they can’t do anything.”
Cops and prosecutors are at odds over Proposition 47, a 2014 referendum that lowered the penalty for stealing goods worth less than $950 from a felony to a misdemeanor.
McCray said the law only emboldens criminals.
“If you steal below $950, you get a citation and you just get to walk away and if you don’t show up to court, guess what?” McCray said. “Maybe you get a bench warrant or maybe they even toss that before it even gets to that point.”
“Anybody can come in and do whatever they want,” he added.
In a scathing statement, the city’s police union blamed city prosecutors for the shoplifting spree.
“This brazen criminal behavior is endured every single day by San Franciscans and it is the direct result of District Attorney Chesa Boudin and his enablers’ criminals-first agenda,” said Tony Montoya, president of the San Francisco Police Officers Association.
Boudin fired back in an interview with KPIX-TV last month, saying it’s the cops who need to do more.
“There is no way that any prosecutor in this country can successfully prosecute a case if police don’t make an arrest and do a good job investigating it,” he said. “It’s that simple.”
Statistics show San Francisco cops have struggled to make arrests in theft cases in the years since Proposition 47 was passed. The number of larceny cases that are “cleared” — leading to an arrest and resolution — has dipped in recent years, from 4.5 percent in 2018 to 2.8 percent so far this year.
In comparison, the NYPD closed more than four times the number of larceny cases last year.
The number of reported larcenies in the city has also dropped consistently, with 11,062 reported so far in 2021, compared to 18,363 over the same period in 2018.
But nonetheless, the dispute over the driving force behind shoplifting in the Golden Gate City has lingered, with city Supervisor Ahsha Safai holding a hearing over the issue just last month highlighting store closures.
“Seventeen Walgreens over the last five years, almost every Gap retailer outlet is gone, CVS is under assault,” Safai said at the hearing, ABC News reported.
“It might even involve a more aggressive effort when it comes to surveillance cameras because you see the same individual hitting multiple locations,” Safai said. “Then you can begin to have deeper conversations about bringing multiple charges, or aggregate charges against that individual and really start to break this up.”
Walgreens officials claim shoplifting at their 53 remaining outlets in the city see four times more theft than their other US stores, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Stores in the city also spend 35 times more on security than elsewhere in the country, Jason Cunningham, regional vice president for pharmacy and retail operations in California and Hawaii, said at the hearing.
In a 2019 report, Fox News noted that San Francisco had the highest rate of property crimes, including shoplifting, among the country’s 20 largest cities — with organized crime rings suspected of running shoplifting rings.
The emergence this week of the bicycle-riding crook at one Walgreens outlet in the city has sparked new concerns over the lax law.
“This is exactly why I held a hearing on organized retail theft and am pushing for greater accountability on shoplifting in SF,” Safai posted on Twitter this week.
Safai did not immediately return a message.
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