New safety measures, barriers at Castro Safeway

One San Francisco Safeway has added metal gates and barricades to its checkout lines to try to prevent theft.

"It's just a whole different feel going grocery shopping and knowing everything is in a lockbox and you can't just grab what you want to grab," said shopper Henry Owens.

Customers walk through automatic gates. There are barriers in the self-checkout area. Back doors are blocked by displays, so there’s just one way in and one way out. Security guards wait by the exit and check bags. There are cameras in the parking lot and shopping carts with anti-theft poles. 

"I had to transfer my groceries from one cart to another cart," said Owens. "You know, because that cart didn't go outside. So I was like, why do have these carts with these poles that look like a go-cart or something? And people are bumping things."

These new security measures come as businesses in San Francisco deal with a spike in retail crime. This Safeway on Market and Church streets near the city’s Castro District has a history of problems with shoplifting.

"It's a free-for-all in there," said shopper Sam Cunningham. "They take what they want. I just saw a guy in an aisle right now putting stuff in his pockets."

Rafael Mandelman with the San Francisco Board of Supervisors said it’s disappointing to see businesses continuously hit by shoplifters. Some have had to close. Others have cut hours.

"Safeway is not alone," said Mandelman. "Target, Walgreens, CVS, even the mom and pop stores are seeing property crime at levels that they haven't before, and that are pretty terrible."

The Safeway on Market Street used to be open 24 hours. It now closes at 9 p.m.

Mandelman said he is working with the city and with the district attorney’s office to figure out how to best respond to this issue. He has also been in touch with Safeway leadership.

"They didn't want to do this. They didn't want to make the shopping experience less pleasant for their customers. That's not good business for them. But it's even worse business for them to be losing the volume of stuff they are to theft," said Mandelman.