Merchants wary after San Francisco camera-shop armed robbery

Merchants are sounding the alarm after another smash-and-grab robbery in San Francisco just days after the mayor and police chief vowed a crackdown on retail theft.

At a jewelry store in Union Square, the display cases are empty because of a late-night break-in two years ago.

"They broke the window right here, jumped through the window, break the door," said the store owner, who wished to be identified only as Shirley..

Shirley said the safety precautions she takes are a must.

"Smash and grab, that’s a real problem right now. So we keep the door locked, and we basically don’t display anything inside the shop," she said.

At about 1:15 p.m. Saturday, four men with a gun invaded the Leica camera shop near Grant Avenue and Bush Street and smashed display cases with hammers. San Francisco police tell KTVU the men made off with equipment worth $178,000.

The store is now closed until further notice.

"I’m very sad. I feel sorry for the owner. Hope they have insurance," Shirley said.

The robbery happened just days after San Francisco Mayor London Breed and Chief Bill Scott promised to crack down on retail theft, after a holiday crime spree last year.

On Monday, San Francisco police were out in force in the Union Square area, hoping to give shoppers and merchants some measure of peace.

An ambassador in an orange jacket spent much of the day near the Dragon Gate entrance to Chinatown across from the camera shop, answering questions from tourists and adding another layer of security.

SEE ALSO: City making Union Square more inviting for visitors, plans to court new types of businesses

Supervisor Ahsha Safai, who has made retail theft one of his priorities, said a "$200,000 loss for a small business like this can be the difference between them staying in business and them shuttering."

He added, "This is not a right-wing conspiracy, this is not something to be swept under the rug. It takes sustained effort, focus and attention to turn the tide."

Shirley says she relies on regular customers to stay in business.

"Walk ins? No. You know, the whole clientele has changed," she said.

She said she’s worried that incidents like the camera-shop robbery will scare off customers. 

"Basically no shopper come to San Francisco," she said. "Seriously, you know, it’s very sad."