Here’s what it’s like at the most shoplifted Walgreens in the U.S.

Retail theft is nothing new. 

The fear of anything from shoplifting or pickpocketing to grand larceny has been a fact of business ownership since the dawn of retail. 

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Yet the rate at which retail theft has picked up, particularly since the pandemic, is alarming. 

Two of the largest brick-and-mortar retailers in the U.S., Walmart  (WMT) – Get Free Report and Target  (TGT) – Get Free Report, have expressed concern about the growth of shoplifting — and with it, the dwindling supplies for purchase. This cuts into store chains’ bottom lines and instills fear in honest customers, oftentimes forcing them to go elsewhere for common goods or groceries. 

“Beyond macroeconomic challenges, we continue to contend with significant headwinds caused by inventory shrink, building on a worsening trend that emerged last year,” Target CEO Brian Cornell said during the Q1 earnings call, using the industry term for theft. He cited a rise in crime as one of the most significant obstacles to Target’s success moving forward.

“While shrink can be driven by multiple factors, theft and organized retail crime are increasingly urgent issues impacting the team and our guests and other retailers. The problem affects all of us, limiting product availability, creating a less convenient shopping experience, and putting our team and guests in harm’s way.”

Shoplifting is on the rise in some cities

It’s not just Target and Walmart. Walgreens  (WBA) – Get Free Report has had a terrible go of it with shoplifting, with some locations chaining their frozen food sections shut. 

NEW: The Walgreens at 16th/Geary in San Francisco has chained up the freezer section ⛓️

Workers said normally shoplifters clean out all the pizza and ice cream every night. They’re usually hit 20x a day. The whole store is virtually locked up. @KPIXtv

h/t @greenbergnation pic.twitter.com/lfFWmkLWdo

— Betty Yu (@bett_yu) July 18, 2023

One of the most shoplifted stores in the country is the Walgreens at 5280 Geary Blvd.  in San Francisco. CNN recently did a clip on it, claiming its crew saw three shoplifting attempts in 30 minutes. The store told the news station that of all the Walgreens, it has the highest theft rate in the country.

The local San Francisco Standard corroborated claims that Bay Area locations have it the worst. Analysis of local police department data reveals that the 2690 Mission St. and the 3398 Mission St. outlets had the most reports of theft to local police. But this is what’s reported, and it’s probably safe to assume that far more incidents go unreported. 

From January through May 2023, when the Standard tracked police reports, here’s what it looked like at the two locations in question: 

2690 Mission Street: 152 petty theft reports, three grand theft reports3398 Mission Street: 81 petty theft reports, no grand theft reports5280 Geary Blvd: 15 petty theft reports, one grand theftAll San Francisco Walgreens locations: 750 petty or grand theft incidents

In 180 of these incidents across the city, police said the thieves were gone by the time they were able to respond to the scene. Only one report resulted in an arrest.

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – JULY 18: A chain with padlocks secures freezer doors at a Walgreens store on July 18, 2023 in San Francisco, California. A San Francisco Walgreens store has locked its freezers with chains and padlocks to thwart shoplifters that have been hitting the store on a regular basis and stealing frozen pizzas and ice cream. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

In San Francisco, petty theft is when one steals $950 of merchandise or less. Grand theft is above $950.

Workers at the 3398 Mission St. store told the Standard that they estimated they saw good stolen every 10 to 30 minutes. The most commonly stolen items include paper towels, cough syrup, and snack food such as candy.

Taken as isolated incidents, petty theft doesn’t seem like such a big deal. But the compounding issue over time cuts into bottom lines and customer confidence. 

Nearly two dozen stores have said they plan to pull up stakes and leave San Francisco as the crime issue remains unresolved. Some of these retailers include Old Navy, Banana Republic, Crate & Barrel, AmazonGo, Saks Off Fifth, Anthropologie and Office Depot. 

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