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San Francisco Walgreens’ locked-up shelves ripped off by thieves

Recently installed plastic, merchandise protectors at Walgreens at 3398 Mission St. in Bernal Heights in San Francisco, on June 20, 2023. | Isaac Ceja/The Standard

Shoplifters at a San Francisco Walgreens ripped off the plastic screens on its locked-up shelves on Monday night, a store manager said.

Stores from Safeway to Home Depot have been increasingly locking items behind screens to deter shoplifting in the Bay Area and across the country. Customers and staff in San Francisco stores recently described the security measures as irritating, with it taking several minutes to access basic items like toothbrushes or high-value items such as liquor and power tools.

Walgreens manager Chanh Luu said the group entered the Bernal Heights store at around 8 p.m. and began smashing the shelves in two of the store's aisles, where laundry soap and dental products are locked away behind plastic shields due to rampant shoplifting in the city. The shields were torn away so the thieves could get their hands on the items but were already replaced by Tuesday when The Standard visited.

The group of thieves then headed for the store's counter but failed to steal cigarette lighters from a display, Luu said.

An outside view of the Walgreens at 30th and Mission Streets in Bernal Heights in San Francisco on June 20, 2023. | Isaac Ceja/The Standard

They then fled from the 3398 Mission St. store with $200 worth of toothpaste and laundry detergent, leaving behind $250 worth of damage, Luu said.

No employees or customers were injured during the incident on Monday, and the store was open for business on Tuesday morning.

Luu said shoplifting incidents happened every at least three times per month, often on the weekends and involving groups of young people who also cause a disturbance before stealing stock.

"If [police] reach out to parents or schools and take action, that will be much better," said Luu, who said police have previously detained Walgreens shoplifting suspects only for them to be released a few days later.

San Francisco police officers responded to the store within 15 minutes of the call, according to Luu, who filed a police report. Police confirmed the incident and said no arrests have been made.

Police dispatch documented 81 petty theft incidents at the 3398 Mission St. Walgreens location from January 1, 2023 through May 28, 2023, according to data from the Department of Emergency Management.

Petty theft at the Mission Street store has steadily declined in recent years, the data shows. There were 130 petty thefts during the same time period in 2021, and 102 incidents in 2022.

Walgreens did not respond to requests for comment by publication time.

San Francisco police's Ingleside Station, which covers Bernal Heights, documented 817 larceny thefts from Jan. 1 to June 11, 2023, the most recent data available, which includes retail thefts. That was about a 10% increase from the same time period in 2022 when there were about 737 incidents during the same period. Citywide, larceny theft has decreased by around 10% over the same period.

George Kelly can be reached at gkelly@sfstandard.com