Samuel Rigelhaupt/Sipa USA/Reuters
Retailers in San Francisco are reporting an increase in shoplifting, but the data aren’t adding up.
The Chronicle delved into SFPD data and found incident reports to be below historic averages.Advertisement
A brief spike in September appears to be a result of one store’s reporting method.
Bay Area businesses are concerned about a wave of retail crime in San Francisco, with shocking video of coordinated robberies making headlines around the world.
But data from the San Francisco Police Department tells an oddly different story, reporters at the San Francisco Chronicle found.
Rather than a rising wave, the monthly number of shoplifting reports over the past 18 months has largely remained below pre-pandemic averages, except for a spike in September that briefly doubled August’s count.
The Chronicle took a closer look at that spike and discovered that 154 of the roughly 400 reports of shoplifting that month were attributed to an intersection in front of a Target in the Metreon Mall — roughly three blocks away from Union Square.
When asked by the Chronicle whether there had been a spree of incidents at that Target, the store manager Stacy Abbot said no.
What did change, Abbot said, was that the store had started using a phone-reporting system to report incidents that was set up by the SFPD. Abbot and Target declined to discuss the matter further with the Chronicle.
Insider also reviewed the SFPD’s data and was largely able to replicate the Chronicle’s findings.
Interestingly, the number of shoplifting reports for November have fallen back below 200, in spite of the high-profile spate of burglaries over Thanksgiving weekend.
And it’s not just shoplifting. SFPD reports of commercial burglary and robbery are also below pre-pandemic averages, with no significant spikes in recent months.
Read Hayes, a criminologist at the University of Florida and director of the Loss Prevention Research Council, told the Chronicle that police data can be a flawed way to measure retail crime, since many businesses may not want to detain suspects or get law enforcement involved.
Attempting to detain a suspected shoplifter or recover losses from them can sometimes spell legal trouble for companies, as Walmart found on Tuesday when a jury ordered it to pay $2.1 million in damages to a woman who says she was wrongly accused of stealing groceries.
Retailers do carefully track inventory loss, but hardly any share details with the public beyond summary figures in their quarterly financial statements and industry surveys.
A CVS spokesperson told the Chronicle that the company loses $200 million per year from organized retail crime, while Walmart says retail theft costs the US economy tens of billions of dollars each year.
CVS and Walmart made revenues of $269 billion and $559 billion, respectively, in 2020.
Do you work in retail asset protection and loss prevention? If so, please get in touch with Dominick Reuter via email.
Read the original article on Business Insider