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San Francisco Announces New Anti-Retail Theft Initiative

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — San Francisco Mayor London Breed on Wednesday unveiled details of a new initiative to curb crime at retail stores in the city.

San Francisco's Organized Retail Crime Initiative will be led by the SFPD in partnership with local retailers and regional law enforcement agencies. The focus of the plan is to increase reporting, investigating, and solving of retail theft cases and the upstream criminal enterprises that fuel them.

The planned initiative has three main elements: expanding and reallocating investigative resources, strategic restructuring, and the introduction of new partnerships between the public and private sectors.

"Retail theft and commercial burglaries are not victimless crimes," said Mayor Breed. "They hurt working families due to reduced work hours, shuttered stores and lost jobs. They hurt customers and seniors who are losing convenient access to prescription medications and vaccinations because of pharmacy closures. They hurt neighborhoods suffering from fewer local retailers and more empty storefronts. The strategy we're outlining today is an all-hands-on-deck approach that brings the full partnership of state and local law enforcement and retailers to bear to aggressively pursue, investigate and deter organized retail crime in San Francisco."

"Mayor Breed directed us to develop a plan to maximize the impact of SFPD's resources by strengthening our partnerships with retailers and law enforcement agencies, and leveraging our successes from such previously announced strategies as our Mid-Market Vibrancy and Safety Plan and Tourism Deployment Plan," said Chief Bill Scott. "The result is our Organized Retail Crime Initiative, and we are incredibly grateful for the participation of local retailers whose partnerships are making this endeavor truly groundbreaking. This collaborative approach reflects the full promise of community policing — not solely to support our City's economic recovery, but to better protect public safety that is too often endangered by retail theft crews and the sophisticated criminal enterprises funding them."

The initiative will expand SFPD's Organized Retail Crime Unit from two to five full-duty sworn investigators under the command of a lieutenant. In addition to cases they investigate within their citywide purview, unit members will serve as full partners to the CHP's Organized Retail Crime Task Force, which Governor Newsom reauthorized on July 21, 2021.

Prior to its reauthorization after sunsetting earlier this year, CHP's Organized Retail Crime Task Force worked in close partnership with the SFPD in operations that recovered millions of dollars in stolen merchandise and cash from criminal enterprises engaged in retail theft activities.

The initiative calls for reallocating resources to SFPD's Field Operations Bureau to focus on deterrence. This will include a newly assigned lieutenant to coordinate privately funded "10B" officers and a sergeant who will function as a dedicated retail theft coordinator. Initial allocations of police officers' 10B time are expected to average more than 3,800 hours per two-week pay period, spanning at least 34 retail locations citywide. Additionally, SFPD's Community Ambassador program will be more than tripled in size — from 8 ambassadors to 25 — and expanded to cover new areas beyond Union Square (where it is currently focused), including Yerba Buena/Moscone Center, Lower Market/Embarcadero, Chinatown, and Fisherman's Wharf.

SFPD's Community Ambassadors are unarmed civilians who patrol in high-visibility windbreakers. Utilizing their law enforcement experience, these ambassadors observe and report issues and problem-solve within their assigned area in partnership with community stakeholders. Initially launched in November 2020 with eight retired SFPD officers as part of the Holiday Season "Safe Shopper" program, SFPD ambassadors have directly helped solve several crimes to date, providing information that led to the arrest of suspects involved in several organized retail theft and robbery incidents.

KPIX 5 received this statement from the Union Square Alliance in response to the organized retail crime initiative:

"The Union Square Alliance is very supportive of the mayor and chief's new initiative to address retail theft."

San Francisco is one of the worst cities in the country for retail theft, according to the Rachel Michelin, the president of the California Retailers Association (CRA).

Michelin applauded the new initiative. However, she said the CRA will be watching closely to make sure the talk amounts to change.

"We're all in on working with law enforcement and the mayor and making sure that we can at least put a dent in this problem," she said. "We are also there to, frankly, hold the mayor and police chief accountable. We want to make sure that they follow through on what they said they're going to do. We're going to watch - and be active, positive participants in the process."

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