By S. Priana Aquino
SAN FRANCISCO, CA — Walgreens—claiming a continued string of retail theft is the cause—is closing five of its stores in San Francisco, but other business chains are staying open and have taken measures to decrease the number of thefts that have been occurring in brick-and-mortar stores throughout the city.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Walgreen’s explanation for this closure is not consistent with publicly available information and may instead be a cover for other reasons that may have led to this decision.
“Data released by the San Francisco Police Department does not support the explanation announced by Walgreens that it is closing five stores because of organized, rampant retail theft,” reports the San Francisco Chronicle.
“One of the stores set to close, on Ocean Avenue, had only seven reported shoplifting incidents this year and a total of 23 since 2018, the data showed. While not all shoplifting incidents are reported to police, the five stores slated to close had fewer than two recorded shoplifting incidents a month on average since 2018,” wrote the Chronicle.
District 5 Supervisor Dean Preston has also questioned Walgreens’ explanation, taking to Twitter to express his opinion.
“Walgreens has long planned to close hundreds of locations,” wrote Preston. “In an SEC (U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission) filing in August 2019, Walgreens stated that it planned to close approximately 200 U.S. stores following ‘a review of the real estate footprint in the United States,” the supervisor said.
This is not to say that theft does not affect San Francisco businesses.
In the last few months, Target has reduced shopping hours to reduce the number of stolen items they have lost this year. Other stores have also taken security measures to prevent break ins or robberies.
However, the inconsistencies between retail stores’ theft claims and what the actual data on their businesses tell us may bolster efforts to recall SF District Attorney Chesa Boudin.
According to ABC7 News, data shows that Boudin has dramatically reduced the number of shoplifting cases he has chosen to prosecute since taking office in Jan. 2020. Prosecutions for theft under $950 dropped from 70 percent under the previous DA to 44 percent under Boudin in 2020. That number rose 6 percent by mid-June 2021.
Though Walgreens has refuted the pushback from other SF officials by stating organized crime is the top point of concern and reason for store removal, many officials are still left unsure if this is truly the case.
Supervisor Preston echoed these sentiments as he asked on Twitter: “So is Walgreens closing stores because of theft or because of a pre-existing business plan to cut costs and increase profits by consolidating stores and shifting customers to online purchases?”