Saturday, May 22, 2021

What Laissez Faire Means in San Francisco

 Thomas Fuller, the San Francisco bureau chief for The New York Times, reports:

Soon after moving to San Francisco in 2016, I walked into a Walgreens in North Beach to buy an electric toothbrush.

As I was paying for it, a man walked into the store, grabbed a handful of beef jerky and walked out. I looked over at an employee, who shrugged. Then I went to Safeway next door for some groceries and I saw a man stuffing three bottles of wine into a backpack and walking casually toward the exit. On his way out he bagged some snacks. I asked the Safeway clerk about the thefts.

“I’m new to San Francisco,” I said. “Is it optional to pay for things here?”

Five years later, the shoplifting epidemic in San Francisco has only worsened.

At a board of supervisors hearing last week, representatives from Walgreens said that thefts at its stores in San Francisco were four times the chain’s national average, and that it had closed 17 stores, largely because the scale of thefts had made business untenable.

Brendan Dugan, the director of the retail crime division at CVS Health, called San Francisco “one of the epicenters of organized retail crime” and said employees were instructed not to pursue suspected thieves because encounters had become too dangerous.

“We’ve had incidents where our security officers are assaulted on a pretty regular basis in San Francisco,” Dugan said.

The retail executives and police officers emphasized the role of organized crime in the thefts. And they told the supervisors that Proposition 47, the 2014 ballot measure that reclassified nonviolent thefts as misdemeanors if the stolen goods are worth less than $950, had emboldened thieves.

“The one trend we are seeing is more violence and escalating — and much more bold,” said Commander Raj Vaswani, the head of the investigations bureau at the San Francisco Police Department. “We see a lot of repeat offenders.”...

On Thursday I called Ahsha Safaí, the member of the board of supervisors who organized the hearing.

We talked about the thefts we had witnessed in the city and the sidewalk thieves’ markets where steaks, bicycles and other stolen goods are fenced. Safaí said he had recently stopped to inspect one of these markets at 24th and Mission.

“Half of Walgreens was on the sidewalk. I’m not kidding,” Safaí said. “I was blown away. I’ve never seen anything like it in this city.”

He talked about what he called a laissez-faire attitude in San Francisco.

“It has become part of the landscape,” he said of thefts. “People say, ‘Oh, well, that just happens.’”

Thieves “are obviously choosing locales based on what the consequences are,” Safaí said. “If there are no consequences for their actions, then you invite the behavior. Over and over.”

As far as I can tell, all the Walgreens in SF have private security and SFPD in the stores. As I have written before, if someone is caught shoplifting in a Walgreens, the SF copper just makes the shoplifter empty out of his pockets and bags what was lifted and sent on his way. There are no arrests. I see this roughly once a week when passing on the sidewalk by a Walgreens.



  1. What would make the situation better? Paying with fake twenties?

  2. By the way, which group does most of the looting? I'm sure there are a few Whites in there. It would not happen to be people of a 'duh-verse' nature, now, would it?

    I'm guessing these are same people who openly crap in the street, but there nothing more libertarian than that these days.

    Besides, we all know that race, IQ, and culture never matter when moving toward that private property society.

  3. How much worse can it get. I don't understand anyone anymore including those that would dare to keep a business open in that environment.

  4. Why would any one live in San Francisco, before or now? Is it the ubiquitous techno/hippie narcissism, the perverts or the bums and thieves that are attractive?

    1. I like SF. I live in Oakland. I pop over occasionally. My band used to play there all the time before covid nuked the scene.

    2. I play drums in The Riot Professor and Tell Me Tell Me. The first is an eclectic, exploratory, psychedelic, improv-heavy pink floyd sort of thing. The second is a lean and mean guitar and drum two piece garage rock sort of thing. I'm trying to book some shows now, and I'm getting the first glimpses of vaccine insistence. Should be interesting moving forward. The musicians around here and all pretty pro-hysteria when it comes to covid. But they're all made of paper, so it should be fun.

  5. Supposed we added up the value of all the shoplifting in SF last year, what sort numbers are we talking here and how do those numbers compare to the scale of theft that the SF city govvengages in without consequences? Or the Ca state gov? Why do we turn to professional thieves for protection from amateurs?

    1. Good point. You should tell Walgreens that the rampant private sector theft isn't really that big of a deal and they should stop paying federal and local taxes instead. I'm sure that would help their business succeed even more.

    2. The only problem Walgreens faces is that the cops will hassle them if they protect their property. The problem is always the government. That's what happens when you turn to professional criminals for protection from amateur criminals.