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Walgreens closes five more stores in San Francisco due to thefts

Walgreens said it will close five more stores in San Francisco next month because of organized retail theft in another blow to a city that has earned an embarrassing reputation for widespread shoplifting.

The stores will close next month, SFGATE reported. It said Walgreens has closed at least 10 stores in the city since 2019. "Retail theft across our San Francisco stores has continued to increase in the past few months to five times our chain average" despite large increases in security, Walgreens spokesperson Phil Caruso said.

San Francisco Supervisor Ahsha Safai said he was devastated by the loss of a Mission Street store that "has been a staple for seniors, families and children for decades."

"This is a sad day for San Francisco," Safai told SFGATE. "We can't continue to let these anchor institutions close that so many people rely on."

Customers with prescriptions at those locations will have their files moved to a nearby Walgreens location, SFGATE reported.

Last year, Walgreens closed one store in the city where the chain said it was losing $1,000 a day to thefts.

Frustration and fear over thefts have been fueled by widely circulating images of shoplifting caught on video. This summer, shoplifters in masks carrying armfuls of designer handbags sprinted out from a downtown Neiman Marcus department store and into getaway cars.

In June, a masked man was caught on video at a Walgreens, stuffing items into a trash bag before cruising out of the store on a bicycle. A suspect was arrested in that theft.

Last month, Mayor London Breed and Police Chief Bill Scott announced they would dedicate more police officers to retail districts, beef up coordination and make it easier to report shoplifters.

"Don't take our kindness for weakness"

"We care about criminal justice reform. We care about second chances. We care about making sure that people are not wrongly accused," Breed said in announcing the new measures. "But don't take our kindness for weakness, our compassion for weakness."

The latest string of thefts at Walgreens stores comes as the company has just boosted pay for thousands of its employees to $15 an hour

About half of Walgreens' 190,000 employees already make at least $15 an hour and will not see their pay increased. The remaining half will see their pay boosted, the company said. The increase to $15 per hour, which applies to both full- and part-time workers, will be phased in completely by November 2022. 

The pay hike will cost Walgreens, the nation's second-largest drugstore chain behind CVS, roughly $450 million over the next three years. Walgreens said in a statement that it expects to absorb the added costs "through the normal course of business."

The price of Walgreens Boots Alliance stock dipped less than 1% Wednesday morning trading, to roughly $47 a share.

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