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Heavy Police Presence Doesn't Dampen Black Friday Holiday Shopping Spirit In Union Square

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) -- After a rash of smash and grab retail robberies, among the greeters, shoppers, and visitors in Union Square on Black Friday, were San Francisco police officers. Some walked around, others drove around by motorcycle and patrol car.

Many visitors said they appreciated the high police visibility.

"I feel very safe. I like it. It feels very good," said Sharlotta Velger, who works in Union Square.

"I have my family here - my wife and my baby - I feel secure," said Jose Diaz, visiting from Sacramento.

SFPD Chief Bill Scott was out there as well. He told KPIX 5 the visibility on Black Friday, and throughout the remainder of the holiday season, is critical.

"We have to prevent reoccurrences of what we saw last week. That's what we're here to do," he said. "We have to sustain this type of presence. People feel better when we are here."

A week ago, a large group of people ransacked the Louis Vuitton store in Union Square in a smash and grab theft. They hit several other spots as well. Police have arrested 9 suspects, so far.

"We have search warrants that have been served and will be served. There was a lot of video footage that our investigators have to go through - a great deal of video footage - it takes time to go through all of that footage. We'll continue to do that," Scott said. "We have some very, very good leads - some promising leads. We're confident, our investigators are confident, that we will make additional arrests from this."

Some shops were open but remained boarded up from the incidents. Other shops had extra security guards on site, keeping a close eye on people coming in and out of the stores.

"I love seeing the increased visibility. I really appreciate it. I know they're cutting down on car access," said David Marx, visiting from Boston. "I think people would be fools to try and do what they did on Friday."

While it didn't totally dampen the holiday spirit, seeing Union Square like this was a bit upsetting to some people.

"It's a little depressing seeing all of the damage people did to a beautiful town," Diaz said.

But shoppers still splurged in Union Square on Black Friday. Some folks, like Marx, weren't all that deterred by the smash and grab crime spree.

"I wasn't thinking, 'oh, now I'm going to take a detour around Union Square' -- I didn't think that at all. I thought, okay, this could have happened anywhere. This could have happened in my city," he said. "It's the first time I've been here during the holiday season - hopefully not the last time."

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