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Watch: Thieves ransack Walgreens store near San Francisco's Civic Center

Brazen shoplifters ransack San Francisco Walgreens store
Brazen shoplifters ransack San Francisco Walgreens store 03:19

A group of shoplifters ransacked a Walgreens store in San Francisco's Civic Center area Sunday as stunned onlookers and store personnel watched in another retail theft incident caught on video.

The incident happened at the Walgreens store at 9th and Market Streets at about 4:30 p.m. Sunday. A group of at least seven people wearing hoodies and masks were seen grabbing items off shelves and carrying away bags of merchandise.

Video of the theft was shot by a producer at CBS San Francisco who was shopping there with his girlfriend when the thieves swept through the store.

Watch: Group of thieves ransack Walgreens store at San Francisco's Civic Center area 00:36

No one appeared to have been hurt in the incident.

"End of the day on Easter Sunday should have been pleasant. Instead I was shocked to see looters taking what they pleased with no regard for the law, or those around them, real-life smash and grab," he said.

San Francisco police said in an emailed statement that officers responded at about 8:38 p.m. to a report of a group of people stealing from a business on the 1300 block of Market Street. Officers arrived to find the business was closed and no one was there to report the incident.

It was not clear why police responded some four hours after the incident. CBS San Francisco has requested clarification from both SFPD and Walgreens about the response to the incident.

Sal, a vendor who delivers to the Walgreens location on Market St. and others regularly, said he sees such incidents often.

"They think it's a free-for-all. You can grab and go as you please," he said.

"It's terrible. I mean, it's really sad because it's just not this Walgreens, all the Walgreens is like that," laments Dina Miller, a long-time resident of the area.

Miller, who has been living in the neighborhood for over a decade, frequents the store almost daily on her way home, viewing it as one of the few remaining options for essential shopping.

"It's really sad because we don't really have any places to go shop anymore. Everything is closing down…Walgreens are closing down all over the place too." she expresses with concern.

Local security guard Eric Beverly, who works nearby, acknowledges the severity of the situation, attributing store closures to rampant theft in the area.

"It is a very difficult situation. A lot of bankruptcies, a lot of stores are foreclosing and taking precautions as far as marketing because of the theft here. It's very serious," says Beverly.

CBS News Bay Area showed the video to San Francisco Board of Supervisor Matt Dorsey, who lives just a few blocks away from the Walgreens and shops there. He pointed to San Francisco's police staffing crisis.

"If we had a fully staffed police department, we could have a robbery unit that was doing more enforcement in places where retail theft plays out, holding more people accountable and doing more to go after the fencing operations that make this lucrative," Dorsey said.

It was just the latest episode of retail theft by groups of people caught on camera in San Francisco and other Bay Area cities, and the latest to hit a Walgreens store. In 2021, Walgreens blamed ongoing retail theft for a series of store closures. However, city leaders pointed out that Walgreens had announced in 2019 its plans to close some 200 stores around the country, including in San Francisco.

Dorsey, representing District 6, views the incident as emblematic of the challenges faced by retailers in the area.

"I feel badly for a lot of the retailers, especially in the Mid-Market area, who are struggling," says Supervisor Dorsey.

He advocates for reforming Prop 47, highlighting the need for tougher penalties to deter such crimes.

Walgreens has closed at least 17 stores in San Francisco since 2019 and is among other large retailers to have closed up stores in the city or announced plans to close since the start of the pandemic. The last one to close was in February 2023 in the city's Financial District. Walgreens said the closure was "due to a significant decrease in foot traffic in the Financial District since the onset of the pandemic."

In April 2023, a person shoplifting from a Walgreens on Market and 4th Streets in San Francisco was confronted by an armed security guard and shot dead during the confrontation, triggering weeks of protests. In July 2023, a Walgreens store in the city's Richmond District began padlocking its freezer section to thwart shoplifters

Over the next couple weeks, state lawmakers will host special public safety hearings concerning a number of bills designed to prevent and prosecute retail crime.

Those bills are part of a 14-bill package called Working Together for a Safer California.

It's a State Senate plan to address both retail theft and the fentanyl crisis. One of the bills would increase penalties on organized thieves who engage in large-scale re-sale schemes. 

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