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Walgreens closes 5 stores in San Francisco, citing ‘organized’ shoplifting

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A security guard and a television reporter were recording him, but the thief was undeterred and raided a Walgreens store in San Francisco on a bicycle, a garbage bag in hand filled with stolen merchandise.

Millions of views a video of the brutal shoplifting in June, which critics say illustrated the epidemic of shoplifting that had plagued shopkeepers across the city. In any case, it was the fifth time the man, who was later arrested on a series of burglary and theft charges, had targeted that particular Walgreens store on Gough Street in the Hayes Valley neighborhood, authorities said.

Now, four months later, Walgreens says it will close that store and four others in San Francisco next month, citing what it described as an ongoing problem of “organized” shoplifting in the city.

“Organized retail crime remains a challenge for retailers in San Francisco,” Phil Caruso, a Walgreens spokesperson, said in an email on Wednesday. “Shoplifting at our San Francisco stores has continued to increase to five times our chain average in recent months.”

Walgreens said its stores in San Francisco have been targeted by professional thieves who resell the goods they steal, primarily through online marketplaces. The San Francisco Chronicle has reported that law enforcement has attributed much of the city’s retail crime to organized theft.

In addition to the store at 300 Gough Street, the Walgreens locations that close are at 2550 Ocean Avenue; 4645 Mission Street; Clemens Street 745; and 3400 Cesar Chavez Street, the company said.

Walgreens representatives said earlier at a board of supervisors hearing in May that it had closed 17 stores, largely because thefts had made doing business in those locations unsustainable.

Ahsha Safaí, member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, said on Twitter on Tuesday that the closure of the Walgreens store at 4645 Mission Street would leave a huge void.

“I am absolutely devastated by this news — this Walgreens is less than a mile from seven schools and has been a staple of seniors, families and children for decades,” said Mr. Safaí. The city, he added, “must act with a sense of urgency to reduce and deter incidents of commercial shoplifting.”

Walgreens said it had increased its “investment in security measures” at its San Francisco stores “to 46 times our chain average in an effort to provide a safe environment.”

The office of San Francisco Mayor London Breed did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

A spokeswoman for Chesa Boudin, the San Francisco district attorney, said in an email on Wednesday that, in addition to prosecuting shoplifting cases, the office has been working with the California Highway Patrol and ALTO, an organization dedicated to addressing theft. shoplifting.

“Our office takes shoplifting very seriously and we have taken several steps over the past year to better prevent and prosecute these crimes,” spokeswoman Sara Yousuf said. “Last year, our Retail Theft Taskforce worked with law enforcement partners in an operation that resulted in the recovery of more than $8 million in stolen items.”

Ms. Yousuf said the city is making progress in tackling such thefts.

“While the number of thefts in San Francisco is lower than in 2019, Prosecutor Boudin is committed to making San Francisco even safer every day,” she said.

A San Francisco Police Department spokesperson referred questions about the case to Walgreens.

The closures, scheduled for November, will bring the number of Walgreens stores closed in San Francisco in recent years to 22, the company said. Walgreens has more than 50 stores in the city, The Chronicle reported.

Walgreens announced in an August 2019 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it would close 200 locations in the United States as part of a cost-cutting initiative.

Employees at the five San Francisco stores that close next month will continue to work at other Walgreens locations, and customers will have their recipes transferred to nearby stores, the company said.

On June 19, the San Francisco Police Department said it was… arrested the man in the shoplifting video which was shot at the Walgreens location on Gough Street. Investigators said they linked the man, Jean Lugo-Romero, 40, to a series of thefts from merchants in the Northern and Mission districts.

Lugo-Romero is charged with theft and burglary in connection with five separate occasions when he attacked the Walgreens store in Gough Street, including on four consecutive days in late May and early June, authorities said.

It was not immediately clear whether Mr Lugo-Romero had a lawyer. The San Francisco Public Defender’s Office in San Francisco did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

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