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Retail crime

One type of crime that has apparently been on the rise in San Francisco is retail crime.

In a brazen example, CNN Senior National Correspondent Kyung Lah claimed to witness three thefts in 30 minutes while filming a television report on July 24 at the Walgreens in San Francisco’s Richmond neighborhood. News cameras captured at least one individual walking out of the pharmacy without paying for any items, at a store where many products are kept under lock and key.

In recent months, several retail giants — including Nordstrom, H&M, Marshall's, Gap, Banana Republic, Anthropologie and Office Depot — have announced they’re pulling out of some San Francisco locations. Crime levels were cited as playing a role in some of these decisions.

Rising concern over retail crime is not isolated to the Golden Gate City. According to a report from the National Retail Federation, a majority of retailers surveyed between 2020 and 2022 reported annual increases in organized retail crime activity at their stores.

To combat the problem, Home Depot CEO Ted Decker announced in June that the home improvement company would be “investing in more security guards” to protect the safety of its employees and customers. This decision sadly followed the deaths of two Home Depot employees during theft incidents.

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‘A ghost town’

To call downtown San Francisco a “ghost town” may be a bit of an exaggeration, but there are several factors playing into this perception.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the city’s tech-heavy workforce embraced remote work and its return to the office has been slow. According to real estate company Savills, San Francisco had one of the lowest office availability rates in the U.S. before the pandemic at 9.5%; however, vacancy is now 30%, a 30-year high.

This major drop in in-office workers has contributed to the diminishment of the city’s once-buzzing downtown core. Even hotels are cutting their losses and bidding farewell to the city.

John Chachas, the CEO of Gump’s, a 166-year-old department store in San Francisco, recently penned a chilling review of the current state of play.

“As we prepare for our 166th holiday season at 250 Post Street, we fear this may be our last,” Chacas wrote in an open letter to California Governor Gavin Newsom, Mayor London Breed, and the city’s Board of Supervisors, published as a paid advertisement in the San Francisco Chronicle.

“San Francisco now suffers from a ‘tyranny of the minority’ — behavior and actions of the few that jeopardize the livelihood of the many.

“The ramifications of COVID policies advising people to abandon their offices are only beginning to be understood. Equally devastating have been a litany of destructive San Francisco strategies, including allowing the homeless to occupy our sidewalks, to openly distribute and use illegal drugs, to harass the public and to defile the city’s streets.”

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About the Author

Bethan Moorcraft

Bethan Moorcraft


Bethan Moorcraft is a reporter for Moneywise with experience in news editing and business reporting across international markets.

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