After Looking at Data, Officials Skeptical over Real Reasons for Walgreens SF Store Closings

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A Walgreens store in San Francisco on Oct. 12, 2020.  Photo by Lea Suzuki/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images.

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?”

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About The Author

S. Priana Aquino is a rising Senior at the University of San Francisco, majoring in Business with minors in Legal Studies and Public Service & Community Engagement. Upon graduation, she hopes to attend law school and continue her work in uplifting and advocating for communities of color.

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23 thoughts on “After Looking at Data, Officials Skeptical over Real Reasons for Walgreens SF Store Closings”

  1. Keith Olson

    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.

    I read this quote about shoplifting theft:

    “I watched a person walk into Walgreens several months ago, go behind the counter, and steal boxes of cigarettes…the mgr. tells me store policy is to not resist, in fact they tell me that they no longer call the police.…enough of that kind of stuff and folks attempting to do business in our area will just pull up stakes and go somewhere else.”

    The level of theft is no longer getting reported as it used to because retailers feel “what’s the use”?

    1. David Greenwald

      First of all, the DA is a layer removed from the police – which is part of what has made me curious. This sounds like a policing issue – perhaps… but see the next point.

      Second, if you steal a pack of cigarettes from 7-11 here in Davis, is there any chance that calling the police is going to make a difference?

      Third, how come someone can go behind the counter at Walgreens to steal cigarettes?  Why not either make the counter inaccessible or put the cigarettes behind a lock?  It’s not that expensive to do.  Most convenience stores do that for this very reason.

      Fourth, it ignores the other part of the story which is that Walgreens planned to close in SF long before Boudin was around.

      1. Keith Olson

        Third, how come someone can go behind the counter at Walgreens to steal cigarettes?  Why not either make the counter inaccessible or put the cigarettes behind a lock?  It’s not that expensive to do.  Most convenience stores do that for this very reason.

        So you’re blaming the store for theft.  It’s not just cigarettes, pretty much anything can be stolen unless it’s too large.  Should stores put everything behind glass or under lock and key?  You’re making excuses.

        Fourth, it ignores the other part of the story which is that Walgreens planned to close in SF long before Boudin was around.

        Then how about Target?  They cut back their SF store hours due to theft.  It’s rampant.

        Second, if you steal a pack of cigarettes from 7-11 here in Davis, is there any chance that calling the police is going to make a difference?

        Exactly, thanks for proving my point.  Retailers are not calling the police with shoplifting complaints as much as they used to, they know it’s useless to do so.

        1. David Greenwald

          “Exactly, thanks for proving my point. Retailers are not calling the police with shoplifting complaints as much as they used to, they know it’s useless to do so.”

          Is it Reisig’s fault if it happens in Yolo? The police cannot come fast enough to detain someone shoplifting in any jurisdiction. So you either take measures to protect your business or you have theft.

          There’s nothing new about this. I remember staying at my cousin’s place in Oakland in the 90s, my car got broken into, the police asked if anyone was hurt and when we said no, they said file a report with your insurance.

        2. Keith Olson

          The police cannot come fast enough to detain someone shoplifting in any jurisdiction. So you either take measures to protect your business or you have theft.

          Once again, thanks for proving my point.  Stores are no longer reporting thefts so citing stats that theft is down is pointless.

        3. David Greenwald

          I’m not proving your point.  We don’t know if your point is accurate or not.

          This was from the Chronicle last week:” 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.”

          If your Walgreens, and you are claiming that the reason that you are closing 5 stores is theft rather than other reasons and you want the city to do something about theft, shouldn’t you be reporting theft?  Your point is plausible, but it also puts the city and police in a tough position – how do we address theft if theft is not being reported?

          1. David Greenwald

            Walgreens has 53 stores in San Francisco and is closing just five of them. So is it theft or do they have too many stores?

        4. Ron Oertel

          Your point is plausible, but it also puts the city and police in a tough position – how do we address theft if theft is not being reported?

          How do we address theft when it’s essentially no longer illegal?  And even security guards have been instructed to simply “observe”.

          Perhaps by mailing them a citation?

        5. Keith Olson

          Walgreens has 53 stores in San Francisco and is closing just five of them. So is it theft or do they have too many stores?

          They’ve closed 17 so far.  Probably in the most crime ridden areas. The plan as I understand it is to close 5 more.

  2. Ron Oertel

    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.

    Let me get this straight.  Politicians are now claiming that Walgreens is lying?  What motive would Walgreens have for doing so?

    And conversely, do politicians have a motive to make that claim?

      1. Alan Miller

        No one has speculated on the reason why they would be blaming theft.

        I speculate that it’s a corporate conspiracy to unseat Boudin by making crime appear to be his fault.

        I don’t actually.

        Friends in SF tell me shoplifting is rampant.  Has been for many years.  Is easy to see items for sale along streets that are clearly from drugstores blocks away, or at flea markets.

        1. Keith Olson

          Is easy to see items for sale along streets that are clearly from drugstores blocks away, or at flea markets.

          And selling stolen goods online as this article points out.  Plus it’s not Target or Walgreens that the story is about, yet another retailer is making the same claims:

          CVS investigators in San Francisco tracked about 24 thieves stealing up to about $39,000 per day from its stores during the fall of 2020, The Wall Street Journal reported. These organized shoplifters, called “boosters,” have stolen about $59 million over the past five years from several CVS stores in Northern California, according to The Wall Street Journal.

        2. Alan Miller

          These organized shoplifters, called “boosters,” have stolen about $59 million over the past five years from several CVS stores in Northern California, according to The Wall Street Journal.

          Ssssssh . . . quiet, quiet . . . your words not part of the narrative and might hurt our precious Chesa . . . and how dare you cite that extremist right-wing capitalist rag, The Wall Street Journal!

    1. Alan Miller

      I’m wondering what the editorial conscience of this here online Davis magazine thinks should happen to those arrested in these ‘flash mob’ thefts ?   If they are convicted, should they be released without punishment and decarcerated because of disproportionate justice and white supremacy?  Or is the answer to the question based on what race/skin-color they turn out to be? What if some of them are white-appearing and some of them are persons-of-color appearing? Should they get incarceration terms based on the inverse of the diversion from the median of the disproportionate injustice of their affiliated racial identification or outsider observation ?

      1. Keith Olson

        I don’t know Alan, but I think a lot of it is based on what race they happen to be.  Maybe they can let them out on $500 bail, or no bail, so something like in Waukesha, Wisconsin on Sunday where a criminal being charged on two counts with a total bail of $1000 was free and able to mow down several innocent people.

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