San Francisco ABC News reporter Dion Lim posted a Twitter video showing 10 people racing out of a Neiman Marcus store, carrying stolen designer purses. The video highlights a growing problem in California, as ongoing shoplifting in major cities has led to dozens of stores closing down.

The event mirrored a similar theft in May, when five men and five women stole $150,000 in handbags from another Neiman Marcus in Palo Alto, just south of San Francisco. In both instances, the culprits wore hoodies and COVID face masks.

The National Retail Federation surveyed retailers and found that California was home to three of the top ten cities most affected by organized retail crime (ORC): Los Angeles ranked first, San Francisco was number five and Sacramento was listed as 10th. The shoplifting has led to store closures in major cities across the state.

The survey reported, “ORC costs retailers an average of $719,548 per $1 billion dollars in sales.” Those costs, of course, get passed on to honest consumers who pay for merchandise, rather than using a “five-finger discount.”

Thomas Fuller, San Francisco bureau chief for The New York Times, reported on a Board of Supervisors meeting about the shoplifting epidemic in the city. At that hearing, Walgreens’ representatives explained “that thefts at its stores in San Francisco were four times the chain’s national average, and that it had closed 17 stores.”

Fuller spoke with one supervisor, Ahsha Safaí, about open “sidewalk thieves’ markets” where stolen goods are fenced. He said, “Half of Walgreens was on the sidewalk. I’m not kidding. I was blown away. I’ve never seen anything like it in this city.”

For California thieves, the consequences were lessened in 2014, when voters passed Proposition 47, which “lowered criminal sentences for drug possession, theft, shoplifting, identity theft, receiving stolen property, writing bad checks and check forgery from felonies that can carry prison terms to misdemeanors that often bring minimal jail sentences.”

The Associated Press reported in 2018 that the passage of the law “contributed to a jump in car burglaries, shoplifting and other theft.”

Fox News recently reported that “vehicle break-ins in San Francisco were up by between 100% and over 750% in parts of the Golden City, according to the police department’s most recent monthly statistics.” The same report shows homicides up 100% and robberies up 28% across the city from May 2020 to May 2021.

While some stores are closing completely, other stores are simply closing earlier. ABC News in San Francisco said, “Target has now acknowledged that San Francisco is the only city in America where they have decided to close some stores early because of the escalating retail crime.” The station said all Target stores would be closing at 6 p.m.

The outlet also reported that a 7-Eleven in the city’s Financial District “only does business through a metal door” after 10:00 p.m. Customers ring a bell to let employees know they’re waiting outside the store.

While many blame Proposition 47 for the increase in crime in California, Kate Chatfield, San Francisco District Attorney’s Office’s senior director, connected fears about crime to racism. A Twitter user wrote, “Anecdotally, every single one of my friends right now is considering leaving SF (and frankly, myself included). The biggest driver is no longer cost of living. It’s crime. My friends are scared for their children, and their husbands are scared for their wives.”

Chatfield, who has now blocked her account, minimized the crime problem on Twitter She responded, “Husbands are scared for their wives’ – your reminder that the ‘crime surge’ crowd shares the same ideology as The Birth of a Nation,” referencing the notorious film that portrayed the Ku Klux Klan as a positive group in our nation’s history.

With store closures and “open thieves’ markets” on the city streets, along with well-documented problems of drug addiction and homelessness, its doubtful that concerns over crime are driven by racism.

San Francisco Supervisor Safaí put it this way, “If there are no consequences for their actions, then you invite the behavior. Over and over.”

Picture from Reuters.