San Francisco gets $17 million to fight retail theft, Oakland misses grant deadline

The City of San Francisco outlined on Thursday how it plans to use a $17 million grant from the state to combat retail theft. Meanwhile, the City of Oakland says it won’t be getting similar funding, because city officials missed the grant’s application deadline.

Oakland city officials blamed the missed application deadline on the city's "decentralized approach to the grants process." 

"This outcome is unacceptable," the City of Oakland said in a statement regarding the missed deadline. "The city and department are reviewing everything that happened to ensure it does not happen again, and will take appropriate action." 

Oakland said it was in the process of hiring a person responsible for managing grants across all city departments.

"I think it’s a disgrace that they didn’t," said Piedmont Grocery manager Luis Hernandez in Oakland. "This fencing, we had to put it up just to keep them from getting our liquor which was a big, big problem." 

Hernandez says shoplifters in the city have become increasingly brazen, and that retailers have been pleading for help from the city's understaffed police force, and that the grant money could have been used to help.

The NAACP Oakland branch had a strong reaction to this development. 

"We are shocked, perplexed, and furious that the City of Oakland forfeited millions of dollars in crime prevention funding by missing a state grant deadline," the organization said in a statement. "San Francisco received $17.3 million from the state, the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office received $2 million, the San Jose Police Department secured $8.5 million, and 52 other California cities and counties received money. Oakland got nothing!"

In addition, the NAACP chapter said they had demanded the declaration of a public safety emergency that would require city and government officials to focus on solving the public safety crisis. 

"Our elected officials and government staff dropped the ball because they were not focused. And they must be held accountable! We are tired of hearing excuses from the city government. How is it that San Francisco, the Alameda County DA’s Office, the San Jose Police Department, and 52 other California cities and counties can submit timely grants that award them millions of dollars, but Oakland cannot get the job done?" NAACP's statement continued. 

In San Francisco, the city's police department is being allocated $15.3 million from the state grant, and said it plans to use it to beef up patrols on the street and to hire more crime analysts to improve their efficiency. 

In Union Square, Nizar Azkandafi, who owns a liquor store, said he doesn't think the money will make a big impact on crime.

"It’s nothing, $17 million," said Azkandafi, who added his store is frequently targeted by shoplifters. "When I call police they come, one hour, two hours they show up."

That opinion was shared by designer Jonie Char, who owns a clothing store down the block. She says her shop has also been repeatedly targeted by criminals.

"I want to see the action. Not just money," said Char. "It’s like, do something."

Meanwhile, Rodney Fong, who heads up San Francisco's Chamber of Commerce, called the new grant money, a step in the right in the direction.

"Retail thefts, they’re not victimless. There is a merchant involved, there are sales people involved. They feel threatened, and so I’m glad that the City of San Francisco and the state has come to a point where we’re not going to tolerate this anymore," Fong said.

The remaining $2 million in state funding is being allocated to San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins' office. Jenkins said she plans to use the funding to hire two staff members dedicated to prosecuting retail theft. 


SFPD crack down on retail theft

San Francisco police announced a major crackdown on shoplifters and retail crime. The department made 60 arrests since late November.