San Francisco Police Retail Theft Blitz Operations Result in Hundred of Arrests, Expanding with New State Funding

Police have conducted 40 operations at local retailers leading to over 300 arrests and will be expanding these efforts going into the holiday shopping season
November 20, 2023

San Francisco, CA – With the holiday shopping season starting, Mayor London N. Breed today announced that the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) will be continuing and expanding its retail theft blitz strategy that has led to significant arrests in retail establishments across San Francisco. District Attorney Brooke Jenkins has filed charges in a number of these cases, bringing a renewed enforcement effort to San Francisco.    

SFPD officers have arrested more than 300 people at more than 40 locations during these blitz operations since last year. Examples of these cases include most recently the arrest of an organized group who targeted a retail location on Geneva Avenue and the arrest of four individuals involved in numerous organized theft operations citywide. 

This past September, Mayor Breed announced that San Francisco received $17 million in a state grant to combat organized retail theft. This includes $15 million in funding to support SFPD’s work to combat organized retail crime, which is paying for overtime for SFPD officers to run targeted retail theft operations. SFPD will significantly increase these blitz operations over the next 3 years with funding from the new state grant. 

These operations are part of San Francisco’s broader strategy to address theft across the entire City. SFPD has also used bait car operations and plainclothes officers to target auto burglaries. This has helped bring larceny theft rates down by 11% year to date compared to the same period last year. 

As the holiday shopping season arrives this week, SFPD will be continuing and expanding these operations in retail locations across the City.   

"Our Police officers are out there making the arrests and, along with our District Attorney, they are sending a clear message that if you target our retailers, you will be arrested and charged,” said Mayor London Breed. “Organized retail theft hurts not just our businesses, but our workers and our residents. We are going to do everything we can to make this holiday shopping season the best one we’ve had in years, and that starts with deterring retail theft.” 

Blitz operations consist of strategic deployment of a number of officers inside a retail location or shopping district. The officers work from a central command post and quickly move in to make arrests when thefts occur. These deployments give police an advantage in cases where perpetrators often move quickly and operated in large numbers in efforts to overwhelm security or responding officers. 

“Our officers will be out in force this holiday shopping season, making sure people will be safe to enjoy San Francisco,” said Chief Bill Scott. “The San Francisco Police Department has made combatting retail theft and auto burglaries a high priority, and we will not tolerate anyone who chooses to victimize people and businesses in our beautiful city.” 

The state grant also includes $2 million for the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office to fund a full time dedicated Assistant District Attorney and a full-time dedicated District Attorney Investigator to prosecute retail theft crimes in San Francisco. The District Attorney’s Office is now prosecuting felony retail theft cases vertically, from charging to final disposition. The dedicated Assistant District Attorney will work closely with SFPD partners to build cases and serve as a single point of contact for witnesses, SFPD, and victims in felony cases.   

Examples of cases the District Attorney has brought under this grant include charging one individual for at least 20 commercial burglaries, and charging those for attempting organized retail theft at a store on Geneva.  

“My office takes these cases seriously and will continue to do our part to hold those who engage in this behavior accountable,” said District Attorney Brooke Jenkins. “These crimes are deeply impactful and will not be tolerated.  Law enforcement agencies are working together to identify, arrest, and prosecute the thieves and those who traffic in stolen merchandise.” 

The state grant also supports the purchase and installation of 400 automated license plate readers to cover 100 intersections throughout the City. The Mayor is currently seeking expedited legislative approval from the Board of Supervisors so that these cameras can be installed soon to help increase retail theft deterrence and accountability. The Mayor also recently announced the launch of the annual Safe Shopper initiative in Union Square, which brings heightened support for retailers during the holiday season, including law enforcement and ambassadors.