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San Francisco police launch retail theft ‘blitz operations’

A San Francisco police car is seen driving at speed.
SFPD is using a $15.3 million state grant to help combat organized retail theft. | Source: Isaac Ceja/The Standard

The San Francisco Police Department has launched a new citywide program to combat organized retail theft by conducting undercover enforcement operations at local stores, Chief Bill Scott announced Friday.

The so-called “blitz operations” are already yielding results, with officers making dozens of arrests in recent days and recovering thousands of dollars in stolen merchandise from some of San Francisco’s most victimized retailers, police said.

The department is funding the surge in enforcement through a recently awarded $15.3 million state grant targeting organized retail crime. Scott credited the operations to strong partnerships between police and businesses.

San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott speaks at a press conference at SFPD Headquarters on April 13. | Source: Morgan Ellis/The Standard

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

In the most recent blitz Tuesday evening at San Francisco Centre mall, teams of uniformed and plainclothes officers arrested nine people for allegedly stealing from stores inside the center. Officers worked with mall security guards and a police command post to make the arrests and recover the stolen goods.

READ MORE: California Gave Out $267M To Fight Retail Theft. Here’s How Much Will Go to San Francisco

Similar stings have occurred at pharmacies, grocery stores, clothing retailers and other businesses around the city. On Sept. 22, officers recovered an estimated $100,000 worth of stolen merchandise after arresting three prolific Bay Area thieves, police said.

Bags of beef jerky are locked in plastic cases at the Target store in San Francisco's Metreon.
Bags of beef jerky are locked in plastic cases at the Target store in San Francisco's Metreon. | Source: Garrett Leahy/The Standard

Mayor London Breed said the operations “will protect our businesses from being targeted by retail theft operations.”

The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, which received its own state grant to fund a dedicated retail theft prosecutor, said it will prosecute the stings’ cases aggressively. DA Brooke Jenkins said they “will send a message that these crimes are taken seriously, and San Francisco is not the place to commit these kinds of crimes.”

Though larceny reports have declined 10% in San Francisco this year, retail theft remains a major concern, police said.