Alarming video captured the moment a brazen robber filled a garbage bag with products at a San Francisco Walgreens and bicycled out of the store after no one tried to stop him.
The footage posted on Twitter by ABC7 Reporter Lyanne Melendez was filmed on Monday afternoon in a Walgreens at the corner of Gough and Fell streets in the Bay Area - where 17 of the pharmacy's stores have been forced to close in recent years due to theft.
The surge in shoplifting incidents arose almost immediately after the passage of a local law that downgraded the theft of property less than $950 in value from a felony charge to a misdemeanor in 2014.
The video opens with a woman and security guard filming with their iPhones as they watch a man in a black sweatshirt and jeans nonchalantly fills his garbage bag with pharmacy items.
The woman asks if they should call 911, but neither make a move to do it. Then the man gets on his bike and starts to ride away before the security guard tries to grab the bag out of his hand, to no avail. The biker then pedals out of the store.
Ahsha Safaí, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, shared the video on Twitter with the caption: 'This is exactly why I held a hearing on organized retail theft and am pushing for greater accountability on shoplifting in SF.'
In a Twitter video posted by ABC7 Reporter Lyanne Melendez, a man is seen nonchalantly shoplifting from a Walgreens in San Francisco as a bystander and security guard watch
The man rode his bike to the store, filled a garbage bag with stolen goods and rode away
Ahsha Safaí, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, shared in a tweet his disgust with skyrocketing crime in San Francisco
He referred to a hearing on retail crimes he held last month with District Attorney Chesa Boudin, retailers, police and probation departments. According to Safaí, many of the shoplifters leave the store just to sell their stolen goods on the street in the same neighborhood.
'Half of Walgreens was on the sidewalk. I'm not kidding,' Safaí told The New York Times. 'I was blown away. I've never seen anything like it in this city.'
Walgreens spends 35 times more on security guards in the city than elsewhere, Jason Cunningham, regional vice president for pharmacy and retail operations in California and Hawaii, said at the hearing in May.
In addition to closing 17 San Francisco stores, theft in the pharmaceutical chain's 53 remaining stores is four times the average for stores elsewhere in the country, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. One Walgreens reportedly loses $1,000 a day to shoplifters, the news outlet adds.
A Change.org petition was launched in March to keep one of the Walgreens on Bush and Larkin streets open, but it ended up closing anyway.
'This has become a lifeline for many seniors, people with disabilities, and low income residents who cannot go further out to other stores to get what they need,' wrote Rusty Everclear, who started the petition that received 257 signatures.
Across the city, 18 Walgreens stores saw 94 shoplifting incidents between September 1 and December 31, 2020, according to data compiled by the San Francisco Police Department and obtained by news outlet Mission Local.
Larceny is the most common crime committed in the Bay Area, according to the San Francisco Police Department's Crime Dashboard
Larceny is the most common crime committed in the Bay Area, according to the San Francisco Police Department's Crime Dashboard.
There were 12,925 instances in 2020 and 11,062 instances in 2021 so far, as compared to the next highest crime – burglary – of which there were 3,141 instances in 2020 and 3,366 in 2021 so far.
Defined by the department as including 'thefts of bicycles, motor vehicle parts and accessories, shoplifting, pocket picking, or the stealing of any property or article that is not taken by force and violence or by fraud.' Burglary is different from larceny because it involves unlawful trespassing to commit a crime.
According to a Walgreens employee handbook, staff who witness someone shoplifting are told to notify a manager and 'never accuse a person of shoplifting or stealing'.
The handbook also states: 'Don't attempt to confront or stop a shoplifter or try to follow him or her out of the store.'
'In many cases, police don't write an incident report, because the suspect has already left the scene,' said Matthew Donahue, an assistant district attorney in the San Francisco District Attorney's Office, to the Mission Local.
Twitter users exchanged differing thoughts on the incident.
'This has been the norm throughout all of CA for quite a while,' wrote Twitter user Lady Goodman. 'The video taken by the security guard will be submitted to Walgreens security team, a report will be filed, and then absolutely NOTHING will come of it . . .'
KeepitRealRo explained that security guards in training are taught to observe and report what happened and are told, 'Don't get beat up or killed over things that are insured.'
And Mark Kitterman agreed with him, writing 'The security guard got it all video and no store patron was injured in the process. Win-Win. The video will be circulated throughout the Bay Area Law enforcement. Dude is screwed.'
But Darrel Lewis rebuked Kitterman's comment by saying: ' Yeah thats not how this works. Nothing will happen to him. He'll be back tomorrow, and why not? Eventually the store will close and the community as a whole will suffer.'
Ryan Lackey attacked San Francisco's leadership and laws, labeling the district attorney a 'communist' and saying: 'Maybe he'll get arrested if he goes to Orinda or Palo Alto or something, but if he stays in SF he's pretty safe from anything ever happening to him.'
In 2014, lawmakers passed Proposition 47, a ballot referendum known as the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act that downgraded the theft of property less than $950 in value from a felony charge to a misdemeanor.
Other political figures who drew ire from pharmacies for their stances included actress Cynthia Nixon, who tweeted last month criticism of her local CVS in Manhattan for putting some of its products under lock and key.
The Sex and The City star tweeted and failed New York gubernatorial candidate tweeted that she had noticed her local CVS in SoHo had 'started' locking up 'basic items like clothing detergent.'
'As so many families can't make ends meet right now, I can't imagine thinking that the way to solve the problem of people stealing basic necessities out of desperation is to prosecute them,' Nixon tweeted.
But a manager of the SoHo CVS, named Vincent, said she was not living in the real world.
'Miss Cynthia Nixon, I don't think you understand what is going on,' he told DailyMail.com 'If you feel that way, maybe one day you should come here and see what we go through. Because people are in danger too - they come in here, and start with customers and they start with the people here that work.'
DailyMail.com called the Walgreens, on Gough Street, for comment, but did not receive an immediate response.
Cynthia Nixon (pictured) came under fire last month when she slammed a CVS in SoHo for putting its items under lock and key
Vincent, who manages Nixon's local CVS in SoHo, said that the Sex and the City actress was unrealistic to ask for the locks on products in his store to be removed. He said the shelves were regularly raided, with people carting away backpacks full of items, which were then sold on to local bodegas