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Walgreens to close five San Francisco stores by mid-November

Amid concerns about retail theft, Walgreens is planning to close five San Francisco locations in the next few weeks. 

The locations due to close are at 4645 Mission St., 2550 Ocean Ave., 3400 Cesar Chavez St., 300 Gough St., and 745 Clement St., according to the company. In an email, a Walgreens spokesperson cited “ongoing organized retail crime” as the reason for the closures. 

Those five Walgreens locations add to a wave of local closures for the national pharmacy chain. In May, a representative from Walgreens told the Board of Supervisors that the company had closed 17 stores over the past five years, citing persistent shoplifting and a high cost of doing business. The company still had 53 stores in the city at that time. 

“Retail theft across our San Francisco stores has continued to increase in the past few months to five times our chain average,” said Walgreens spokesperson Phil Caruso. “During this time to help combat this issue, we increased our investments in security measures in stores across the city to 46 times our chain average in an effort to provide a safe environment.”

The five locations will each close between now and mid-November, said Caruso, and customers with prescriptions at those sites will have their orders automatically transferred to a nearby location.

Earlier this year, viral videos of shoplifting incidents–including one at the 300 Gough St. Walgreens–shone a national spotlight on retail theft in San Francisco. In June, Target slashed store hours at its San Francisco stores, citing losses from theft. 

In response, San Francisco policymakers are attempting to mitigate retail theft in the city by refocusing law enforcement resources.

Last month, Mayor London Breed and Police Chief Bill Scott said that the police department will boost its retail crime unit to a total of six dedicated officers, including one lieutenant in charge of coordinating a force of off-duty officers hired by chain stores to monitor theft. 

The police department has also made it possible to report store theft online in addition to over the phone and in person, which may improve data collection on retail theft incidents. Such incidents are believed to be widely underreported, either due to store reporting policies, the time involved in making reports, or a sense of apathy around reporting such crimes. 

Safai, who represents District 11 where one of the soon-to-close Walgreens stores is located, recently introduced legislation at the Board of Supervisors that would allow businesses and other private parties to hire off-duty San Francisco Deputy Sheriffs to patrol stores or commercial corridors. 

“The city needs to act with a sense of urgency to reduce and deter the number of incidents of commercial retail theft,” said Safai in a statement.