SAN FRANCISCO—A news crew with Inside Edition filmed a man jumping off a counter with stolen merchandise at a Walgreens store located on Van Ness and Eddy Streets.
“Just fifteen minutes after an Inside Edition crew showed up at the drugstore, we found this guy jumping over the front counter taking an air bed and leaving the store on his scooter.”
The Inside Addition crew was there for a story on rampant shoplifting.
A Walgreens voice mail message confirmed that the 790 Van Ness Walgreens will close on November 11: “This Walgreens will be permanently closing on November 11, 2020. Your prescription records are available at any other Walgreens.”
“We have a lot of shoplifters, especially on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday,” said assistant manager Peter Mo. “We have crazy non-stop, every-minute shoplifting.”
He noticed an increasing frequency of shoplifters since mid-2019: “I worked at this Walgreens for two years. In 2019, during the first sixth months, there was not that much, but in the second six months, there was just more and more. This neighborhood has become more and more crazy.”
He said according to Walgreens policy, they were not allowed to stop shoplifters.
Cathy Kyi, manager of the 498 Castro Walgreens said, “There is shoplifting around the city.” When asked if it had gotten significantly worse over the course of the pandemic, she said it was possible.
Sebastian Luke, a local resident who lives one block away from the store on Van Ness and Eddy has been filming and photographing thefts over the course of the year. His photos are evidence of San Francisco Walgreens’ repeatedly cleaned out by shoplifters. He is a long-time customer of the Opera Plaza.
The SF Chronicle reported Luke describing theft policies at Walgreens. “I feel sorry for the clerks, they are regularly being verbally assaulted,” Luke said in an expression of sympathy to retail workers. “The clerks say there is nothing they can do. They say Walgreens’ policy is to not get involved. They don’t want anyone getting injured or getting sued, so the guys just keep coming in and taking whatever they want.”
On March 3, a Walgreens outpost on 730 Market Street closed. One “tipster” told Hoodline that an employee claimed the store was losing $1,000 a day due to shoplifting. “[She] said that the store couldn’t cope with the shoplifting, which she said was $1,000/day,” he wrote.
That same month, a Walgreens drugstore adjoining the BART plaza at 16th and Mission Streets also closed. A Bayview Walgreens closed in Bayview last July.
“Retail theft has become more prevalent in the San Francisco area,” said Walgreens spokesman Alexandra Brown. “We are currently reviewing additional actions to help curtail and prevent theft, while also striving to balance product inventory and how we can best meet the needs of our customers.”
At the Walgreens on 1496 Market Street which intersects with Van Ness, residents noted exacerbating crime. Hoodline editor Allie Pape, who has been regularly visiting the store for over a decade, noted the absence of front door security guards for the first time.
Hoodline interviewed regular visitor, Juan Lopez who used to “grab a drink” during breaks. “My first thought was someone just cleared house — but then I noticed it was almost all of the shelves,” Lopez said.
Around that time, part of the door’s glass was smashed and had to be covered with plywood.
According to the San Francisco Police Department Dashboard, there have been 20,687 larceny thefts and 1,899 robberies from January 1, 2020 to October 25, 2020. Larceny is described as “the unlawful taking, carrying, or riding away of property.” Burglary is described as “the unlawful entry of a structure to commit a felony or a theft.”
Rising theft and crime are exacerbating hardships experienced by Walgreens in the Bay Area. The 498 Castro Walgreens, with about 50 employees, had to cut hours during the pandemic. Employees with years of seniority consistently work 40 hours a week but newer employees work generally between 24 to 30 hours a week, the manager said.
On October 26, a video surfaced of an officer chasing an armed suspect aisle after aisle with a pistol in Modesto, uploaded by KXTV Sacramento.