Video of a bold theft at a San Francisco Walgreens circulated on social media on Monday, highlighting the spike in brazen shoplifting that has been forcing businesses to flee the California city.
The cell phone footage, captured by ABC7 reporter Lyanne Melendez, shows a man stuffing a large, black garbage bag full of goods right off the store’s shelves. Two other people are seen filming the theft with their phones, including a security guard. One of the onlookers can be heard saying, “Should we call 9-11?” The security guard shrugs and continues filming.
“This just happened at the @Walgreens on Gough & Fell Streets in San Francisco. #NoConsequences,” the reporter tweeted along with the video.
The thief then hops on his bike – which he apparently rode into the store – and makes his way towards the exit with the garbage bag of goods.
As the burglar is leaving, the security guard attempts to grab the bag, but fails and allows the thief to leave.
“That’s when he sort of ran into me with his bicycle,” said Melendez, who captured the incident on her cell phone while shopping at the Walgreens in Hayes Valley on Fell and Gough Streets.
“It’s hard for me as a journalist to say ‘I won’t be involved, I can’t get involved,’ I have to be sort of neutral, but this is also my city. I live in this city and I see this constantly. Not only Walgreens, but cars, and my garage door has been broken into twice.”
According to Melendez, she has witnessed several brazen shoplifting episodes in the city over the last 18 months.
“At what point do we say enough is enough, we want our city back?” she asked.
San Francisco Board of Supervisors member Ahsha Safai acknowledged the impact the theft is having on the city.
“Seventeen Walgreens over the last five years, almost every Gap retail outlet is gone, CVS is under assault,” Safai said.
In May, Safai held a hearing on retail theft issue, asserting that the District Attorney and law enforcement need to tackle the situation together.
“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 conversation about bringing multiple charges, or aggregate charges against that individual and really start to break this up.”
The surge in shoplifting has been seen across the state in recent years, a trend law enforcement attribute to the passage of Prop 47. Known as the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act, the 2014 law increased the amount a person could steal before facing felony charges from $450 to $950.
According to Lieutenant Mark Donaldson of the Vacaville Police Department, the suspects are aware of the nearly $1,000 limit and are taking advantage of it, CBS 13 reported.
“They know the law,” Donaldson said. “One of the first things they ask us [is] ‘Can’t I just get a ticket so I can be on my way?’”
Donaldson explained that the thieves who are caught are most often written a citation, given a court date and released.
“It’s a boldness like we’re seeing never before and just a disregard for fellow human beings,” Donaldson said.