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VIDEO: Shoplifter Fills Up Backpack With Stolen Goods During Stroll Through San Francisco Walgreens

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- As local and state officials crack down on retail crime, a customer videotaped a shoplifter at a San Francisco Walgreens filling up a backpack with stolen goods as a security guard and employee urge the thief to leave the store.

The woman who shot the cellphone video spoke to KPIX but didn't want to show her face or use her name because she lives in the neighborhood and fears for her safety.

On the video the security guard tells the man to leave has he continues to shove handfuls of makeup into the backpack. The woman continues recording as the man walks to another part of the store. He is clothed in black, and his leg sometimes looks twisted as he walks awkwardly.

"I'm following you," she says, "look at me," but the man keeps his head down and grabs more items off the shelves.

"The guy had a black bag, a big heavy duty black bag, and he was just putting stuff in there," she recalls.

The woman says she recorded it because she's seen people shoplifting from the store multiple times – and she's worried the store might close if it keeps happening.

"It's about our neighborhood, so that's the reason I took the risk, you know. We need to speak up."

She says it happened just before 10 a.m. on July 1 at the store on Divisadero and O'Farrell. It was just the latest in a brazen series of retail crime thefts during the pandemic.

According to the California Retailer's Association, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento rank among the top 10 cities in the country when it comes to organized retail crime.

The woman says more needs to be done to stop crimes like this – organized or not.

"I feel there's no consequences, and they have no remorse, and they don't think about the people. They don't think about us, about the neighborhood, about the people who go shopping, because that's our store."

Walgreens has closed several San Francisco stores and Target has cut back operating hours at its stores in the city because of rampant incidents of shoplifting and theft. It seems not a day goes by without a new social media video post of a theft.

KPIX reached out to the San Francisco Police Department as well as Walgreens for comment on the incident, and neither responded to our requests.

"We've all seen images of people running in [to store to commit grab-and-dash thefts]...You are seeing them all across the state of California, those organized efforts -- and they are organized...We want to go after those rings," Gov. Gavin Newsom said during a news conference earlier this month.

The governor noted that law enforcement has had some success cracking down on retail theft with nearly 700 investigations leading to more than 250 arrests and the recovery of tens of millions of dollars in stolen merchandise, but he said his administration was committed to working with local law enforcement, local district attorneys and local elected officials to address the issues of violence and crime.

Newsom said the new bill being signed would streamline some of the hurdles state law enforcement -- specifically the California Highway Patrol -- face in getting involved with local investigations as well as providing significant funding for the investigative efforts.

"This is one of many different CHP operations in the state of California. We will also be expanding those operations across the spectrum, not just in terms of retail efforts," Newsom said.

A total of three CHP task forces will be focusing on organized retail theft, with one covering the Golden Gate area, a second one covering the San Diego area and the third based in Orange County.

The new bill guarantees funding for the task forces to continue operations for years to come.

San Francisco police chief Bill Scott issued a release praising the governor's actions, saying the bill will make his job of stopping the organized groups of thieves targeting retail stores easier.

"The brazen retail thefts we've seen in San Francisco recently are fueled by sophisticated criminal enterprises that require a no less sophisticated response from law enforcement agencies, working in close coordination," Scott said. "These crimes don't just hurt retailers. In my city, they also hurt seniors who depend on neighborhood pharmacies that are being forced to shutter. They hurt workers who are seeing their hours cut and jobs eliminated by employers struggling to cope."

Katie Nielsen contributed to this report.

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