Surprise statement from San Fran supervisor: With more police presence, ‘crime drops dramatically’

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – In the face of widespread and brazen shoplifting, one San Francisco Board of Supervisors member has called for increased police staffing in the city.

Supervisor Ahsha Safai spoke about this need on “CNN Newsroom” on Friday, June 18, 2021, in response to a now-viral video of a shoplifter in Walgreens.

In the June 14 video, a masked shoplifter with a bicycle can be seen helping himself to items off the shelves and filling up a large garbage bag.  The person filming, as well as a customer and a security guard who are also filming, are mere feet away.

The customer asks on the video about calling 911, and the security guard responds by shaking his head.

The shoplifter then rides his bicycle toward the three people filming.  The guard attempts to grab the bag and is unsuccessful, and the shoplifter rides, unchallenged, out of the store to the street.

On the CNN segment, Safai confirmed to host Alisyn Camerota that retail theft has been a focus for quite some time.  He said:

“For this issue, this is something that we have been focusing on for the last six to nine months.

“And I had a hearing about two months ago, and in that hearing one of the biggest revelations that we heard was shocking to myself and others.  

“Was that (sic) 85 percent of the loss in these major retailers is due to organized retail crime.”

Indeed, as Law Enforcement Today previously reported, professional crime accounted for 85% of recent retail losses for CVS Pharmacy alone.  

In addition, there was a bust of an organized crime ring in October 2020 in San Francisco, in which over $8 million in stolen merchandise was recovered.

Furthermore, Walgreens has had to close 17 stores during the last five years due to widespread retail theft.

Safai explained on CNN that the shoplifter with the garbage bag was likely a part of such a professional theft ring, saying:

“They primarily target cosmetics, over-the-counter drugs, and they take them and they sell them to a middle man, and then the middle man then sells it on the international market, markets in the United States, flea markets.

“This is a multi-million dollar industry.”

Safai added that these organizations recruit people to hit up to ten stores in a day, stealing thousands of dollars in merchandise that will be resold at a discount.

Safai continued by suggesting that crackdowns need to be tightened.  He told Camerota:

“We need to crack down.

“We need to say, if people are hitting multiple stores in a day, there need to be aggregate charges.

“There needs to be more coordination between the police, district attorney and the courts.”

He added:

“They are not being prosecuted on the level that I think they need to be.”

In addition, Safai indicated that police departments in the area need more resources to combat these crime rings.

Stating that he has also asked Walgreens to invest more resources into security, he went on to say:

“I am also on the budget committee.

“We’re putting more resources back into our police department to ensure that they have appropriate staffing levels.

Asserting an inverse relationship between police presence and crime, he added:

“Because when we do have police in those areas, the crime drops dramatically.”

Camerota pinned Safai down further on this issue, asking:

“So just so I understand, are you saying that this shoplifting spree that we’re seeing, and we just saw there [on the video] with our own eyes is because there aren’t cops on the beat?”

Safai responded:

“In some cases.  In some cases it’s lack of coordination.  In some cases it’s lack of prosecution.

“But I think that the thing that struck me was that it wasn’t crimes of opportunity, that it wasn’t people that were just in desperation, that it was people who were part of a larger network, and that’s where we need to put our resources.

“The police, the courts, the district attorney.”

The Supervisor added that anecdotally, he has seen police presence cause a “dramatic” decrease in crime, saying:

“Well, I will tell you in our part of town, we did see, we did have officers invested in the location, and it was a dramatic turnaround.

“So I know with the right coordination, with the right cooperation, in between the Walgreens, the other retail outlets, with our district attorney, with our courts, we can turn this around.”

San Francisco Police Lieutenant and San Francisco Police Officers Association Vice President Tracy McCray appears to agree with the need for additional officers and more of a prosecutorial crackdown.

McCray told Fox News:

“What happened in that Walgreens has been going on in the city for quite a while.”

McCray continued:

“I mean, we can have a greatest hits compilation of people just walking in and cleaning out the store shelves and security guards, the people who work there just standing by helplessly. Because they can’t do anything.”

Pointing a finger at the lack of officers and the lack of prosecution, she went on to say:

“So, what you have is, obviously, crooks knowing that they can just go in. Because there are no consequences, not enough cops out. 

“You try to put a cop at every corner, which is unrealistic, and just the criminals-first agenda from the district attorney. Because he’s not prosecuting any of those crimes as felonies. … 

“And as I said before, if you steal below $950, you get a citation and you just get to walk away. And if you don’t show up for court, guess what? Maybe you get a bench warrant, or maybe they even toss that before it even gets to that point. So, it’s just really anybody can come in and do whatever they want.”

Time will tell if Supervisor Safai’s call for prosecutorial crackdowns and more officers on the street will be heeded, or if Walgreens will soon have to close store number 18 in the San Francisco area due to continued retail theft.

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For more on the thefts in San Francisco, we invite you to read this recent report on the situation:

After seeing Walgreens theft video, San Fran cop says, “I’m used to it, it’s been going on for quite a while”

 

June 18, 2021

SAN FRANCISCO, CA- On Wednesday, June 16th, San Francisco Police Lieutenant (Lt.) Tracy McCray appeared on Fox News Channel’s “America’s Newsroom” and stated that she is “used” to shoplifters stealing with zero consequences for their criminal behavior.

McCray, who is also the vice president of the San Francisco Police Officers Association, was referring to a Walgreens video that showed a man stealing items from the store without being stopped. McCray said:

“What happened in that Walgreens has been going on in the city for quite a while. I’m used to it. I mean, we can have a greatest hits compilation of people just walking in and cleaning out the store shelves and security guards, the people who work there just standing by helplessly because they can’t do anything.”

The San Francisco Police Officers Association (SFPOA) blames District Attorney Chesa Boudin’s policies for enabling this type of criminal behavior.

The New York Post reported that the police and prosecutors are at odds over Proposition 47, a 2014 referendum that lowered the penalty for stealing goods worth less than $950 from a felony to a misdemeanor. McCray said that this law only emboldens criminals. She said:

“If you steal below $950, you get a citation and you just get to walk away and if you don’t show up to court, guess what? Maybe you get a bench warrant or maybe they even toss that before it even gets to that point.”

McCray added:

“Anybody can come in and do whatever they want.”

Tony Montoya, president of the SFPOA, said in a statement:

“This brazen criminal behavior is endured every single day by San Franciscans and it is the direct result of District Attorney Chesa Boudin and his enablers’ criminals-first agenda.”

Feeling threatened by that statement, Boudin fired back in an interview with KPIX-TV, claiming it is the police who need to “do more.” He said:

“There is no way that any prosecutor in this country can successfully prosecute a case if police don’t make an arrest and do a good job investigating it. It’s that simple.”

Statistics show that San Francisco police have struggled to make arrests in theft cases in the years since Proposition 47 was passed. To compare, the New York Police Department (NYPD) closed more than four times the number of larceny cases in 2020. 

The dispute over the driving force behind shoplifting in San Francisco continues on. In May, city Supervisor Ahsha Safai held a hearing over the issue, highlight the store closures. Safai said:

“17 Walgreens over the last five years, almost every Gap retailer outlet is gone, CVS is under assault.”

Safai added:

“It might even involve a more aggressive effort when it comes to surveillance cameras because you see the same individual hitting multiple locations. Then you can begin to have deeper conversations about bringing multiple charges or aggregate charges against that individual and really start to break this up.”

Walgreens officials stated that shoplifting at their 53 remaining outlets in the city see four times more theft than their other U.S. stores.

At the hearing, Jason Cunningham, regional vice president for pharmacy and retail operations in California and Hawaii said that stores in San Francisco also spend 35 times more on security than elsewhere in the country.

In 2019, Fox News reported that San Francisco had the highest rate of property crimes among the country’s 20 largest cities, including shoplifting. Organized crime rings are suspected of running shoplifting rings. 

The Public Policy Institute of California compiled numbers showing that San Francisco has the lowest arrest rate of any police department in California. In response, San Francisco Police Chief William Scott said:

“That answer does speak to staffing. I mean it’s direct and this is not an excuse, this is a reality. In order for us to be at these locations when these things happen, the officers have to have time to be there.”

In 1994, voters passed Proposition D, which mandated that there be 1,971 full duty officers. San Francisco has never reached that goal. Montoya said:

“With retirement and people leaving, it could take upward of a decade to recover.”

In 2020, the Board of Supervisors made changes to the police department’s budget, which resulted in police academy classes being cut. This time, the mayor is proposing an increase in their budget and has urged supervisors to support it. Mayor London Breed said in a statement:

“Don’t come out in solidarity to support a community and then cut away the kinds of solution that will help address those challenges. This is a community that wants more and we need to do better by them.”

________

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Author: Lizzy Murica


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