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San Francisco Safeway security gates fail as rampant theft continues, staff say

A Safeway on Mission Street in Bernal Heights in San Francisco, on June 20, 2023. | Source: Isaac Ceja/The Standard

A San Francisco Safeway with new receipt-scanning security gates continues to see high rates of daily theft despite the increased shoplifting measures, staff say.

“I’d say 60 to 100 [thefts] on my shift alone,” said a security guard at the 3350 Mission St. Safeway, who spoke anonymously because he is not authorized to speak to the press.

A worker at the Bernal Heights location said people commonly steal laundry detergent. At that Safeway, like many others, the Tide pods are under lock and key, along with toothpaste, shampoo and vitamin supplements. 

“It’s a lot worse at night. During the day, it’s OK,” another Safeway employee said, also speaking anonymously because staffers are not authorized to speak to the press. The worker said shoplifters usually target items that are not food. 

Thieves will often walk through the self-checkout section, pushing past the clear plastic security gates where customers are supposed to scan receipts before they’re allowed to leave the store.

The aisle with shampoo, vitamin supplements, and toothpaste was locked behind plastic cases at the Safeway at 3350 Mission St. in Bernal Heights on July 28, 2023. | Source: Garrett Leahy/The Standard

Demonstrating how thieves evade the anti-theft gates, she pushed one aside with her hand when The Standard visited on Thursday. As it opened, the illuminated gate, normally lit with green lights, turned red and beeped loudly.

“These two I’ve seen [before],” the security guard added, pointing to a man and a woman wearing backpacks. “I didn’t see what they grabbed, but those bags are definitely heavier than when they walked in.”

Sure enough, they entered the self-checkout but didn’t stop. There was a loud beep as they walked briskly through the exit. The security guard watched them leave without approaching the alleged shoplifters.

Other commonly stolen items from Safeway include alcoholic drinks, according to staff.

At the Safeway on 3350 Mission St., customers using self-checkout must scan their receipts before they can exit the store. The gates have been installed at Safeway stores around San Francisco and are meant to deter shoplifters. | Garrett Leahy/The Standard

San Francisco resident Raymond Easter told The Standard he was taking the 14 Muni bus about a month ago when he saw a man board near the Bernal Heights Safeway with a garbage bag full of beer.

“They were 12-packs,” Easter said. “Modelos.”

Witnesses say thieves sometimes use the bus to get away after swiping items from the Safeway at 3350 Mission St. in Bernal Heights. The stop is served by the Muni 14 and 49 buses. | Source: Garrett Leahy/The Standard

The security guard said thieves often take the bus to flee the scene and that he’s followed alleged shoplifters to the bus stop many times before.

“Recent changes were made at select Safeway stores in the Bay Area to maintain a safe and welcoming shopping experience for our customers and associates given the increasing amount of theft,” a Safeway spokesperson told the San Francisco Chronicle recently for an article about the new receipt scanning security gates.

Another store in the Fillmore District also has security gates installed.

The San Francisco Police Department and Safeway did not respond to requests for comment by publication time.

Garrett Leahy can be reached at