San Francisco has long been the subject of intense scrutiny on how the city deals with crime. The recent death of tech exec Bob Lee thrust the city deeper into the national spotlight, with right-wing pundits claiming SF is a crime-riddled hellscape—although crime reports data doesn't reflect this.
The New York Post chimed in on Monday, reporting a San Francisco Target store on Folsom Street in the SoMa neighborhood had its "entire inventory on lockdown," due to a "shoplifting crisis." The article cited video footage taken by a TikTok user.
The Standard visited the Target store on Monday evening and found most of the store's inventory was not actually locked away behind protective security panels. Health, beauty and grooming products, such as razors and deodorant, were locked away behind plastic screens, however.
“This Target didn’t used to have anything locked up, but six months ago, they started locking all sorts of stuff up, like toothpaste and laundry detergent," said Ashley Hesslein, a Potrero Hill resident who was shopping at the store on Monday.
Stores like Target, Walgreens and CVS have been locking up personal grooming and health products for a while, but not just at San Francisco locations. News outlets dubbed shoplifting a national "crisis" in 2022, and in the same year, retail chains like Walgreens announced plans to lock up commonly stolen items such as body wash.
It is unclear when Target at Folsom Street started to implement new security measures. Numerous store workers declined to comment.
A Target spokesperson told The Standard the Post article was indeed inaccurate.
"Like other retailers, organized retail crime is a concern across our business," a Target spokesperson said. "We’re taking proactive measures to keep our teams and guests safe while deterring and preventing theft. These mitigation efforts include hiring additional security guards, adding third-party guard services at select locations, and using new technologies and tools to protect merchandise from being stolen."
Though protective barriers and security are supposedly implemented to prevent shoplifting losses—which topped $100 billion nationwide in 2022—research found that locking up products actually drives sales down.
"I kind of am sympathetic to Target, but sometimes I drive south to some other places like Serramonte that don’t have things locked up just because it’s faster," Ashley Hesslein said.
Still, the retail landscape in San Francisco has been rocked by the successive closures of grocery stores and chain retailers like Whole Foods. Numerous stores have promised increased security on store premises or shortened store hours, citing concerns about theft.
"It’s super inconvenient, but there’s just too much security; it’s not really needed," said Ashley's daughter Brooke Hesslein. "If people are needing to steal stuff, then we should focus on what the actual problem is."
Liz Lindqwister can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org