San Francisco police (SFPD) are cracking down on retail thefts over the holidays in a covert operation that was launched last month.
The effort is part of the city’s crackdown on shoplifting that has severely impacted local businesses.
“Retail theft is not a victimless crime. It hurts our local business,” SFPD spokesperson Adam Lobsinger said in a statement.
Over the past month, SFPD officers have been staking out grocery stores and pharmacies to catch shoplifters in the act.
So far, they have arrested 60 individuals.
Lobsinger said the community is fed up with the shoplifting problem in the city.
“It hurts our workers who are getting their hours cut or losing their jobs,” Lobsinger said. “It hurts people who are shopping to feed their families, and it hurts our seniors who depend on neighborhood pharmacies that are forced to shutter.”
According to the department, police officers have been deployed to monitor stores such as Walgreens, Old Navy, Target, Whole Foods, CVS, Macy’s and Gap.
“These operations have resulted in 13 felony bookings, over 47 misdemeanor citations, and they will continue,” SFPD said.
Around half of those arrested for shoplifting were offered diversion resources, while the other half face charges for commercial shoplifting, petty theft or grand theft.
“It is imperative that there is accountability and appropriate consequences in all cases. Inventory loss due to retail theft has caused a financial and emotional hardship to our businesses and the community,” the SFPD said in a statement.
The Bay Area has been famously struggling with rampant shoplifting and “smash and grab” incidents for the past few years.
Earlier this year, Walgreens was forced to close four of their locations due to the crimes, and this month Target and Walmart threatened to close down some of their stores as well.
According to the National Retail Federation, $95 billion was lost due to theft last year. The federation reported that organized crime retail theft increased by 26%.
SFSPD Deputy Chief Raj Vaswani said the operation will continue for another month.
“We’re going to assess it and see how successful it is. Of course, we also have to look at the overall resources and how sustainable it is,” Vaswani said.
City leaders such as DA Brooke Jenkins and Mayor London Breed also voiced their support for the effort.
“Addressing retail theft is a priority for my office and we have been working closely with the San Francisco police to ensure that there is accountability and appropriate consequences in all cases,” Jenkins said.
“Operations like this not only yield results in arrests and prosecutions, they also send a message that there will be consequences when you cross the line in San Francisco. There has to be accountability in this city and we will keep building on the strong partnerships with our retailers to address theft in their stores so we can create a safer space for both residents and workers,” Breed said.
Police unions blame the rise in retail theft in part on Prop 47, which was passed in 2014. The measure softened penalties for thefts under $950 by dropping the charge from a felony to a misdemeanor.