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Downtown San Francisco Target now locking up clothes as thefts rage on

A view of the section of locked-up men's underwear at the San Francisco Metreon Target on Jan. 11, 2024.
Men's socks and boxers are the latest items on the list of products stashed behind plastic protective barriers at San Francisco Target stores. | Source: Joel Umanzor/The Standard

A Downtown San Francisco Target is now locking up some of its clothing in protective security cabinets, the latest chapter in how large corporate businesses around the Bay Area are attempting to curb retail theft.

The new security measures were installed approximately three weeks ago on men's T-shirts, socks and underwear, according to an employee at the Target inside the Metreon, a mall near San Francisco's Union Square. Workers spoke on the condition of anonymity because they did not have permission to talk to the press.

“People take the men’s stuff almost every day,” the worker said, adding that men’s underwear is one of the more popular items for shoplifters. “Now that they are locked up, it’s helped stop it a bit.”

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Last May, The Standard spoke with employees at the Metreon Target and found that the location saw at least 10 thefts a day with regularly taken products ranging from cereal to nail polish and aluminum foil.

The Metreon Target in Downtown San Francisco is now locking up men's underwear including socks, boxers and t-shirts.
The Metreon Target in Downtown San Francisco is now locking up men's underwear, including socks, boxers and T-shirts. | Source: Joel Umanzor/The Standard

The locked-up men's underwear is the latest item in an array of products at the store—including shampoo, deodorant, toothbrushes and beef jerky—that have been locked up for months.

No other clothing items apart from men's are stored behind the protective panels that require an employee to unlock after a customer pushes a button for assistance.

The Standard attempted to buy socks from the store on Thursday. It took just over 30 seconds for a worker to respond after pushing the button.

Richard Koenig, a 45-year resident of San Francisco who lives nearby in SoMa, said the Metreon Target is the store he uses most whenever he ventures out to shop.

Koenig, who says he lives in low-income housing, told The Standard that although he wishes things were accessible like they have been in the past, he understands the financial reasoning behind the items being behind the plastic protective barriers.

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 security cases at the Target store in San Francisco's Metreon. | Source: Garrett Leahy/The Standard

“Seems like this store is always getting stuff stolen from it,” he said. “As someone who worked as an auditor on the business side of things, you can’t blame businesses like this one for taking this kind of approach.”

Across the bay, men's clothing has also been spotted locked away at the store on Macdonald Avenue in Richmond, according to photos posted on Reddit.

"Our multi-layered approach to combatting theft includes in-store technology, training for store leaders and security team members, and partnerships with law enforcement agencies as well as retail trade associations," a Target spokesperson said in an email.

Target says it deploys theft-deterrent strategies like the locked cases on a limited basis.

"While we don’t share specifics on these strategies, these decisions are generally made at a local level,” the spokesperson said.

Joel Umanzor can be reached at jumanzor@sfstandard.com