San Francisco officials question Walgreens store closures, say crime might not be only factor

San Francisco Mayor London Breed still acknowledged the city's issue with retail theft

Public officials in San Fransisco took issue with Walgreen's claims that organized retail theft is the reason behind some recent store closures in the city. 

The pharmacy chain will shutter five locations, with a company spokesperson saying that "retail theft across our San Francisco stores has continued to increase in the past few months to five times our chain average" despite large increases in security.

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San Francisco Mayor London Breed – who previously acknowledged the city's issue with retail theft and announced plans to combat it – instead argued that the company has been having a hard time generating revenue in the city, likely prompting its decision to close certain stores.

"They are saying (shoplifting is) the primary reason, but I also think when a place is not generating revenue, and when they’re saturated — S.F. has a lot of Walgreens locations all over the city — so I do think that there are other factors that come into play," Breed told reporters last week, according to The San Francisco Chronicle.  

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San Francisco District 5 Supervisor Dean Preston questioned Walgreens' claims and tweeted an August 2019 SEC filing explaining that the company had planned to close hundreds of stores in the country after "a review of the real estate footprint in the United States."    

"So is Walgreens closing stores because of theft or because of a pre-existing business plan to cut costs and increase profits by consolidating stores and shifting customers to online purchases?" he tweeted.  

Preston further noted that his office is working to get clarity on the matter. 

San Francisco Police Department data also shows that the stores slated to shutter faced fewer than two recorded shoplifting incidents a month on average for several years, according to the Chronicle. 

Overall, however, crime is up 2% this year compared with the same time period last year. The police department recorded just over 19,000 reports of larceny theft this year, compared with more than 25,500 last year and 42,000 in 2019.

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In September, Breed and the San Francisco police chief announced that the city would dedicate more police, beef up coordination and make it easier to report shoplifters in an attempt to crack down on brazen commercial thieving that has added to the city’s reputation as soft on crime.

Breed said at a news conference that organized shoplifting results in closed pharmacies and markets, hurting people who rely on those establishments for work, medication and food. She said that while San Francisco is known for its compassion, stealing will not be tolerated.

Representatives for Walgreens, the San Fransisco Police Department, and the offices of Breed and Preston have not immediately responded to FOX Business' requests for comment. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report