Walgreens closes several San Francisco stores due to ‘retail theft’—leaving neighborhoods without a vital source for food, medication, and other essentials

Walgreens is closing five San Francisco stores due to “retail theft,” a move that underscores the drugstore chain’s complex relationship with many of the city’s low-income neighborhoods and communities of color, reports The Guardian. The closures follow a recent spate of high-profile shoplifting incidents at Walgreens stores around the city, prompting city officials and San Francisco police to launch a new anti-retail crime initiative. But recent crime data suggests an overall decrease in shoplifting across the city since 2020, leading some community leaders to question the chain’s decision to shutter highly trafficked locations that many San Franciscans depend on for affordable food staples, medication, and other essentials. Charles Ryan, a case manager at San Francisco’s Pretrial Diversion Project, notes that Walgreens has failed in the past to establish a respectful presence in some neighborhoods, including the city’s historically Black neighborhood of Bayview Hunters Point, where the company closed a location in 2019. Before it closed for good, Ryan recalls seeing Black shoppers racially profiled at the location and that the store itself was often not properly cleaned. “Closing the other locations is bad because they’re closing some in neighborhoods where people would have to go across town to get what they need,” said Ryan. “You’re just closing it because a few people were stealing.” —Patricia I. Escárcega