(The Center Square) – San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced an expansion of the “retail theft blitz” operation in which hundreds of alleged thieves have been arrested and charged as part of the city’s new wave of anti-crime policies.
Police secured over 300 arrests over 40 operations at local retailers, according to the mayor’s office, with many of those arrested already having been charged by the district attorney as city leaders focus on “bringing a renewed enforcement effort” to the city in advance of the 2024 elections for mayor and other city offices.
“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,” Breed in a statement on Monday. “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.”
According to polling released in October from Grow SF, only 24% of San Franciscans say the city is going in the right direction – the worst numbers since the group began polling in April of 2015. The consolidated city-county’s top leaders – the mayor and the County Board of Supervisors – have disapproval rates of 63% and 65%, respectively. In response, the mayor and board announced dual proposals to expand and reform the police force and mandate drug treatment for recipients of city-county welfare programs.
With rising retail theft in California highest in the Bay Area and driving major stores such as Target to shut down, combating theft is communicated as a top priority by city leaders.
In addition to continuing with growing theft-related arrests, Breed shared the city is using a state grant to hire two new district attorneys to solely focus on prosecuting thieves. The city will also install 400 automated plate readers at 100 intersections across the city to better track and capture criminals on the run.
Rafael Mangual, a Manhattan Institute fellow and member of the Council on Criminal Justice, views these as promising steps but warns that these actions are meaningless if criminals are able to easily return to the streets and commit more crime.
“It’s encouraging to see an initiative that marries proactively policing this problem with a prosecution strategy that is, at least in theory, meant to operate as a backstop to those efforts,” Mangual said. “The key test will be whether the highest-rate offenders are actually taken off the street for a significant period of time.”