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San Francisco deploys extra cops to deter retail theft during holiday shopping season

A San Francisco police SUV is parked outside a storefront adorned with a Christmas tree.
A police vehicle sits parked at Union Square.

Shoppers in San Francisco can expect to see a greater law enforcement presence in and around retail stores this holiday season thanks to grant money that is also helping fund more resources to prosecute organized retail thefts, San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins announced this week.

Jenkins appeared with California Highway Patrol Commissioner Sean Duryee and Los Angeles County Assistant Sheriff Holly Francisco to discuss a holiday crackdown on retail thefts that Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday would expand an earlier partnership between the CHP and local law enforcement.

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Jenkins said that the increased presence of uniformed police officers from the CHP and the San Francisco Police Department in high-traffic retail districts like the Union Square corridor would be a deterrent during the holiday shopping season that is meant make shoppers feel safer.

“The San Francisco Police Department and all of our law enforcement partners, including the CHP, our sheriff’s department and others, will be out in full force to catch those who engage in retail theft in our stores during this holiday season,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins said her office was able to fund a dedicated prosecutor and investigator to focus on organized retail theft with part of a $17 million grant from the state.

The team will be able to spend more time connecting the dots of where stolen merchandise goes after it is stolen, who are repeat offenders and who is responsible for more large-scale thefts.

The grant is also funding increased foot patrols by SFPD officers.

Duryee said the holiday crackdown would advance fruitful partnerships between statewide and local law enforcement.

“Organized retail crime remains an issue,” Duryee said. “From brazen smash-and-grabs to sophisticated theft rings, organized retail crime is a concern for retailers and has the focus and attention of law enforcement throughout California.”

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He said the holiday crackdown would involve both uniformed and undercover officers. Francisco from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said statewide coordination was important because people who plan and commit organized large retail thefts often come from other jurisdictions than where they commit their crimes.

Newsom established the CHP Organized Retail Crime Task Force to focus on retail theft in 2019. The task force started operations in Southern California and has expanded to the Bay Area and other parts of the state since.

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It has made more than 1,500 arrests in that time and recovered more than $33 million worth of merchandise, according to the governor’s office.

In a statement Wednesday, Newsom said people who steal from retail stores should be “arrested and escorted directly into jail cells.”

Jenkins and Duryee also urged people who witness retail theft not to intervene, but to provide their accounts to the police.