Organized theft is turning San Francisco into retail’s wild west
Recent reports depict a battle going on in San Francisco between retailers and organized retail crime, and the thieves are winning so convincingly that stores are closing their doors rather than trying to keep up a losing fight.
The New York Times reports that the city’s board of supervisors heard last week from representatives of Walgreens who said that the number of thefts at its San Francisco locations was four times that of the average for the chain across the U.S. The drugstore giant has closed 17 stores in recent years, largely as the result of being unable to curtail profit-destroying thefts.
Brendan Dugan, director, Organized Retail Crime & Corporate Investigations at CVS Health, told the Times that San Francisco is one of the most troublesome markets in the country for the retailer when it comes to thefts at stores.
The threat of violence has led CVS to instruct its store security personnel to refrain from pursuing suspected thieves. Mr. Dugan said the chain has seen its security officers “assaulted on a pretty regular basis” in the city.
There appears to be plenty of blame to go around when it comes to organized retail crime run amok in San Francisco, from limited legal consequences for first-time and repeat offenders and the lucrative nature of the illegal trading, primarily done via online platforms, such as eBay.
As bad as San Francisco is, it is not the worst city in the U.S. or even California when it comes to organized retail crime. The National Retail Federation’s (NRF) “Organized Retail Crime Survey 2020” ranks the city by the bay at number five on its list.
Los Angeles tops the ignomeous, list followed by Chicago, Miami and New York. Right after San Francisco come Baltimore, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Sacramento.
Criminal activities at retail cost retailers an average of nearly $720,000 for every $1 billion in sales, according to NRF.
The scope of organized criminal acts has broadened in recent years, with three in four retailers surveyed by NRF between February and April of 2020 reporting an increase over the preceding 12 months. The value of what thieves steal was also going up, according to two-thirds of respondents.
- San Francisco’s Shoplifting Surge – The New York Times
- Shoplifting in San Francisco is so out of control that retailers are closing stores – The Independent
- Organized Retail Crime – The California Retailers Association/California Organized Retail Crime Association
- 2020 Organized Retail Crime Survey – National Retail Federation
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Is the depiction of retailers in San Francisco fighting organized retail crime confined to particularly “bad” neighborhoods in that city or is it a problem across the country regardless of where stores are located? What are retailers and others doing to address the issue and what else needs to be done to thwart this criminal activity in a substantial way?