San Francisco sees drop in larceny and shoplifting

After years of viral thefts caught on camera, San Francisco has reported a sizable drop in the number of thefts in the city. 

The city said larceny and shoplifting have dropped. 

On Thursday, the San Francisco Police Department announced they had arrested 17 people in a shoplifting blitz.

San Francisco has seen its share of shoplifters and thieves.

Some of those incidents went viral after being caught on camera. 

New data suggests that the city may be turning the corner on shoplifting and larceny.

SFPD Chief Bill Scott touted new data showing a 75 percent drop in shopping theft over the Thanksgiving weekend compared to 2022, and down 80 percent from 2021. 

At the same time, the Council on Criminal Justice released a report comparing 24 major cities across the country and found San Francisco saw a 35 percent drop in reports of shoplifting, the biggest drop in the study.

Scott said the latest data is encouraging. 

"I want to be careful and cautious and say, we're off to a great start, but it is a start," Scott said. "We're not at the end. This is just the beginning of what we think we can accomplish in terms of addressing this issue in our city."

Scott credits a combination of factors, including increased enforcement by uniformed and plainclothes officers, including blitz operations like the one the department said netted 17 shoplifters just this past weekend. 

The chief also credited increased accountability. 

"The district attorney, D.A. Jenkins, is not only seeking prosecutions on the cases where appropriate, she is seeking detentions and particularly for the people who are repeat offenders who are prolific," Scott said.

Magnus Lofstrom from the California Public Policy Institute tracks such data and said the decline was an encouraging sign. 

He said the decline brings the numbers below pre-pandemic levels. 

"I do think it's possible that, you know, the efforts that were put in place, the bait cars, the assistance from CHP dealing with retail theft, increased enforcement, may have contributed, and helped bring down these numbers," Lofstrom said.

People were starting to notice the difference. 

Marisa Rodriguez from the Union Square Alliance said the data backed the feeling that many are getting that things are shifting in the city for the better. 

"We're boots on the ground here at Union Square," said Rodriguez. "So, it's palpable. The change is palpable, the change, we're feeling the support. We've got law enforcement everywhere and just in time for the holidays, which is just amazing for us. We are seeing San Franciscans coming down in droves. Black Friday was really good for us this year."

Scott hopes to capitalize on this momentum, and keep larceny numbers trending down.

To that end, he said the department recently received a $15 million grant from the state, part of which will fund cameras to help track down thieves following any mass thefts.