San Francisco police launch ‘blitz’ crackdown on retail crime

A Whole Foods in San Francisco.
Residents pass by an advertisement for a Whole Foods store on April 12 in San Francisco.
(Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

San Francisco police on Friday announced a new campaign to crack down on retail theft, the latest high-profile law enforcement action undertaken in a city still struggling to shake its negative reputation when it comes to crime.

The initiative — backed by a $15.3-million state grant to combat organized retail crime — entails deploying “blitz enforcement operations” that will involve teams of officers patrolling popular city shopping areas.

“Our city will not tolerate criminals ransacking our businesses,” Police Chief Bill Scott said in a statement. “Not only are these crimes devastating to our business community and local economy, too often we’ve seen these crimes escalate into violence.”


Crime, including shoplifting, has long been a hot-button issue in San Francisco — with some saying theft and other illegal activity are the reason retailers including Nordstrom, Whole Foods and Target have opted to close locations in the city.

Westfield San Francisco Centre mall is going to lenders, adding to real estate pain in a city struggling to bring back workers and tourists after the pandemic.

June 12, 2023

The city made national news in April when a security guard at a local Walgreens shot and killed an unarmed man he suspected of shoplifting.

As of the start of this month, overall crime was down in San Francisco compared to 2022 — with larceny thefts down nearly 8%, according to Police Department data. In a statement, the department noted that arrests are also increasing.

Robberies, however, were up 15% from Jan. 1 to Oct. 1 of this year, compared to the same period in 2022.

Though officially announced Friday, authorities are already touting the results of previous “blitz” enforcement actions.


“The operations are already showing promising results, with officers making dozens of arrests recently and recovering thousands of dollars in stolen merchandise at San Francisco’s most victimized retailers,” the Police Department said in a statement Friday.

The spate of store closures near Union Square, a tourist destination and the heart of San Francisco’s shopping core, has concerned business leaders and economists alike.

May 29, 2023

An operation Tuesday netted nine arrests and the recovery of stolen property at the San Francisco Centre, which has been vacated by Nordstrom, the department said.

“We will protect our businesses from being targeted by retail theft operations,” Mayor London Breed said in a statement. “Retail theft impacts our businesses, workers, and residents, and it must be stopped.”

Officers also recovered around $100,000 in stolen merchandise on Sept. 22 and arrested three “prolific Bay Area thieves,” the department said.

“The blitz operations coupled with vigorous prosecution from my office will send a message that these crimes are taken seriously, and San Francisco is not the place to commit these kinds of crimes,” Dist. Atty. Brooke Jenkins said in a statement.