Monday, May 24, 2021

Unprosecuted shoplifting causes Walgreens to close stores in San Francisco

See San Francisco’s Shoplifting Surge by Thomas Fuller of The NY Times. 

In my macro courses we read a chapter in the book The Economics of Macro Issues. The chapter discussed how nations with common law systems, where property rights are better protected than in nations with civil law systems, have higher growth rates.

Excerpts from the article:

"At a board of supervisors hearing last week, representatives from Walgreens said that thefts at its stores in San Francisco were four times the chain’s national average, and that it had closed 17 stores, largely because the scale of thefts had made business untenable.

Brendan Dugan, the director of the retail crime division at CVS Health, called San Francisco “one of the epicenters of organized retail crime” and said employees were instructed not to pursue suspected thieves because encounters had become too dangerous.

“We’ve had incidents where our security officers are assaulted on a pretty regular basis in San Francisco,” Dugan said.

The retail executives and police officers emphasized the role of organized crime in the thefts. And they told the supervisors that Proposition 47, the 2014 ballot measure that reclassified nonviolent thefts as misdemeanors if the stolen goods are worth less than $950, had emboldened thieves.

“The one trend we are seeing is more violence and escalating — and much more bold,” said Commander Raj Vaswani, the head of the investigations bureau at the San Francisco Police Department. “We see a lot of repeat offenders.”"

"The hearing did not answer a crucial question: Why San Francisco? If the problem stems in part from a change in California law, why aren’t other cities in the state seeing similar spikes in shoplifting?

On Thursday I called Ahsha Safaí, the member of the board of supervisors who organized the hearing.

We talked about the thefts we had witnessed in the city and the sidewalk thieves’ markets where steaks, bicycles and other stolen goods are fenced. Safaí said he had recently stopped to inspect one of these markets at 24th and Mission.

“Half of Walgreens was on the sidewalk. I’m not kidding,” Safaí said. “I was blown away. I’ve never seen anything like it in this city.”

He talked about what he called a laissez-faire attitude in San Francisco.

“It has become part of the landscape,” he said of thefts. “People say, ‘Oh, well, that just happens.’”

Thieves “are obviously choosing locales based on what the consequences are,” Safaí said. “If there are no consequences for their actions, then you invite the behavior. Over and over."

Related post:

Rampant shoplifting leads to another Walgreens closing in S.F.  (from Jan. 2021)

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