AMAC Exclusive – By Andrew Abbott
In the latest viral video showing just how bad San Francisco’s crime problem has become, a clip making the rounds on social media this week shows hundreds of cosmetic and toiletry items in a bay area Target placed under lock and key, including low-dollar products like shampoo and mouthwash. Yet as Target and other retailers struggle to combat a rising epidemic of brazen broad-daylight thefts – and many simply leave the city entirely – San Francisco’s far-left Mayor London Breed has incredibly suggested that the city’s crime problem isn’t all that bad.
The Target clip highlights just how desperate many stores have become amid a crippling surge in theft. The National Retail Federation’s 2022 retail security survey ranked San Francisco as the second-most hard-hit metropolitan area by theft in 2020 and 2021, only behind Los Angeles. In the survey, 71 percent of respondents said they have seen a “substantial” or “moderate” increase in retail crime.
Rather than go to such extreme lengths to combat the rise in shoplifting, many retailers have given up and decided to leave the city entirely. Five Walgreens stores have closed over the past year in the downtown area. Retailer Cotopaxi fled last October. Dozens of restaurants are no longer in business.
Many tech companies – the economic powerhouses of the bay area – have similarly decided to close up shop. At least nine major tech companies have announced their exodus from the city in recent months, a fact that city leadership believes will lead to a $728 million budget gap over the next two years as commercial property values plummet.
Earlier this month, grocery giant Whole Foods also closed its flagship store in San Francisco over “safety” concerns. The national chain, which is owned by Amazon, could no longer guarantee the safety of its employees or its customers.
San Francisco Board of Supervisors member Matt Dorsey shared a series of tweets following the news, suggesting that the closure directly resulted from crime and police shortages. He stated: “Whole Foods’ closure — together with many other safety-related challenges we’ve seen recently — is Exhibit A as to why San Francisco can no longer afford not to solve our police understaffing crisis.” The San Francisco Police Department has lost over 500 officers since 2020. The department is currently operating at 75% capacity.
Those staffing shortages are a direct result of Mayor Breed’s early embrace of the “Defund the Police” movement three years ago. Amid unrest following the death of George Floyd, Breed cut $120 million from San Francisco’s police and sheriff department budgets, ignoring admonitions from law enforcement groups that crime would skyrocket and the city would struggle to retain and recruit officers.
Those warnings soon proved prescient as a wave of smash-and-grab robberies swept the city, along with a spike in other violent crimes. Less than a year after defunding the police, Breed reversed her position and made an emergency request for additional police support and funding. While this funding splurge solved the budgetary crisis, it did little to curb staffing shortages. As she and her fellow Democrats demonized American policing, tens of thousands of officers either retired or resigned in protest from their positions.
At the same time, Chesa Boudin, San Francisco’s far-left prosecutor – who was recalled last year – refused to prosecute many crimes, most infamously de-criminalizing theft under $950. Although voters gave Boudin the boot, the city is still dealing with the fallout from his tenure, and Brooke Jenkins, the new DA – appointed by Breed – has hardly taken a tough on crime approach.
Yet despite clear signs that San Francisco is descending into utter anarchy, Breed has remained defiant. In an interview with Fox San Francisco earlier this month, she dismissed the notion that the city was unsafe, saying, “I think that oftentimes because of social media, because of cameras and how people are able to publicize things that are happening in a moment, it is taken completely out of context in terms of highlighting the entire city as being unsafe…That’s not entirely true.”
Instead, Breed said, it only seems like there is a crime problem in San Francisco because the city has been a “target” for so long and has been “used as an example because we’re innovative, we are creative, we come up with out-of-the-box ideas.”
It was unclear exactly what “out-of-the-box ideas” Breed was referring to. Yet if the result of those ideas is Target putting basic household goods behind protective glass and major retailers fleeing the city, it is unlikely even the most liberal San Francisco resident – or any other American for that matter – wants to see any more of them.
Andrew Abbott is the pen name of a writer and public affairs consultant with over a decade of experience in DC at the intersection of politics and culture.