San Francisco Businesses Take Extreme Security Measures To Fight Theft

As shoplifting continues to skyrocket in California, especially San Francisco, stores have begun implementing extreme security measures to protect their products and deter criminals.

Grocery stores, pharmacies and other businesses in the crime-riddled city have installed new security devices and hired private security guards to fight the rise in theft. One such store is supermarket chain Safeway, which installed exit gates in their self-checkout lanes in several Bay Area stores — requiring customers to scan their receipts before exiting.

The changes were explained in a statement from a Safeway spokesperson released on Monday.

“Recent changes were made at select Safeway stores in the Bay Area to maintain a safe and welcoming shopping experience for our customers and associates given the increasing amount of theft,” the statement read.

“Those updates include operational changes to the front end of the stores to deter shoplifting. Like other local businesses, we are working on ways to curtail escalating theft so we can ensure the wellbeing of our employees and foster a welcoming environment for our customers. These long-planned security improvements were implemented with those goals in mind,” the statement continued.

A Walgreens located in northern San Francisco took even more extreme measures recently, locking freezers with chains after being hit by shoplifters 15 to 20 times a day, according to an employee.

A reporter for local news outlet ABC7 witnessed multiple shoplifters at this particular store within an hour, and even spoke to one of them. When asked why he did not pay for the products, the shoplifter simply told the reporter: “It’s San Francisco, bro.”

One major reason for the increase in shoplifting in the area is Proposition 47, a law approved by voters in 2014 that made theft of merchandise under $950 a misdemeanor that is often not even investigated, let alone prosecuted.

Several businesses in San Francisco’s Union Square hired private security back in 2021 to combat the rise in “smash and grab” robberies in the area. One such business was luxury home décor retailer Gump’s, which also placed a limit on how many shoppers could be inside the store at one time in December 2021.

“It is a cost that is not sustainable long-term for our business or for any business,” Marc Capalbo, Gump’s vice president of operations, said in a TV interview with local outlet KRON 4 at the time. “The lack of leadership, the lack of accountability for those that are committing these crimes have got us to this situation.”

Between 2019 and 2022, shoplifting rose 20% in San Francisco, according to the California Department of Justice.

Several major retailers have closed their downtown San Francisco locations in recent months, including Westfield Mall, AT&T, Nordstrom, Whole Foods and two prominent hotels.