San Francisco: Mayor London Breed Announces Organized Retail Crime Initiative
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San Francisco, CA — Mayor London N. Breed today unveiled details from San Francisco's Organized Retail Crime Initiative, a new initiative led by the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) in partnership with local retailers and regional law enforcement agencies. The focus of the plan is to increase reporting, investigating, and solving of retail theft cases and the upstream criminal enterprises that fuel them.

The Plan has three main elements:
  • Expanding and reallocating police investigative resources
    • Increasing the SFPD Organized Retail Crime Unit from two to five investigators and adding one dedicated Lieutenant to better investigate crimes locally and to work regionally with the California Highway Patrol's Organized Retail Crime Task Force
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  • Strategic restructuring of publicly and privately funded deployments
    • Dedicating SFPD personnel to ensure tightly-coordinated field operations and communications with retail partners
    • Tripling the SFPD Community Ambassador program, which employs retired SFPD officers to patrol and serve as deterrence, and expanding geographic area served
    • Managing privately funded deployment of 10B officers to focus on deterrence
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  • Public-private partnerships aimed at reporting, investigating and solving cases
    • Increase reporting of crimes through expansion of Teleserve Unit, which was implemented during COVID-19 pandemic to take reports without in-person contact
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"Retail theft and commercial burglaries are not victimless crimes," said Mayor Breed. "They hurt working families due to reduced work hours, shuttered stores and lost jobs. They hurt customers and seniors who are losing convenient access to prescription medications and vaccinations because of pharmacy closures. They hurt neighborhoods suffering from fewer local retailers and more empty storefronts. The strategy we're outlining today is an all-hands-on-deck approach that brings the full partnership of state and local law enforcement and retailers to bear to aggressively pursue, investigate and deter organized retail crime in San Francisco."

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"Mayor Breed directed us to develop a plan to maximize the impact of SFPD's resources by strengthening our partnerships with retailers and law enforcement agencies, and leveraging our successes from such previously announced strategies as our Mid-Market Vibrancy and Safety Plan and Tourism Deployment Plan," said Chief Bill Scott. "The result is our Organized Retail Crime Initiative, and we are incredibly grateful for the participation of local retailers whose partnerships are making this endeavor truly groundbreaking. This collaborative approach reflects the full promise of community policing — not solely to support our City's economic recovery, but to better protect public safety that is too often endangered by retail theft crews and the sophisticated criminal enterprises funding them."

Expanding and reallocating police and investigative resources

The initiative will expand SFPD's Organized Retail Crime Unit from two to five full-duty sworn investigators under the command of a dedicated lieutenant. In addition to cases they investigate within their citywide purview, unit members will serve as full partners to the California Highway Patrol's Organized Retail Crime Task Force, which Governor Gavin Newsom reauthorized on July 21, 2021.

Prior to its reauthorization after sunsetting earlier this year, CHP's Organized Retail Crime Task Force worked in close partnership with the San Francisco Police Department in operations that recovered millions of dollars in stolen merchandise and cash from criminal enterprises engaged in retail theft activities. One of those coordinated operations led to an $8 million seizure in partnership with the San Mateo Sheriff's Office on Sept. 30, 2020, in which multiple law enforcement agencies recovered merchandise stolen from San Francisco Bay Area retailers.

Strategic restructuring of privately funded deployments, expanded patrols

The initiative calls for reallocating resources to SFPD's Field Operations Bureau to focus on deterrence. This will include a newly assigned lieutenant to coordinate privately funded "10B" officers and a sergeant who will function as a dedicated retail theft coordinator. Initial allocations of police officers' 10B time are expected to average more than 3,800 hours per two-week pay period, spanning at least 34 retail locations citywide. Additionally, SFPD's Community Ambassador program will be more than tripled in size — from 8 to fully 25 ambassadors — and expanded to cover new areas beyond Union Square (where it is currently focused), including Yerba Buena/Moscone Center, Lower Market/Embarcadero, Chinatown, and Fisherman's Wharf.

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SFPD's Community Ambassadors are unarmed civilians who patrol in high-visibility SFPD Community Ambassador windbreakers. Utilizing their wealth of law enforcement experience, these ambassadors observe and report issues and problem-solve within their assigned area in partnership with community stakeholders. Initially launched in November 2020 with eight retired SFPD officers as part of the Holiday Season "Safe Shopper" program, SFPD ambassadors have been instrumental in helping to solve several crimes to date, providing critical information that led to the arrest of suspects involved in several organized retail theft and robbery incidents.

Public-private partnerships aimed at reporting, investigating and solving cases

The San Francisco Police Department is dramatically expanding incident reporting capabilities for participating retailers under the Organized Retail Crime Initiative — initially through SFPD's Teleserve Unit.

SFPD first implemented its Teleserve Unit last year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to facilitate the intake of incident reports without the risks of in-person contacts. The system was upgraded in August 2021 to allow for reports of retail thefts to be prepared over the phone, a time- and cost-saving technique designed to encourage retailers to maximize their reporting of theft incidents. A planned upgrade to SFPD's online reporting system from LexisNexis Coplogic Solutions will allow participating retailers to more easily report thefts via an online portal.

If successful in enabling retailers to maximize their reporting of retail crimes, a potentially dramatic increase in larceny and commercial burglary crime rates should be expected. However, more robust reporting and data aggregation will more effectively target the San Francisco Police Department's deployment of police resources, while enabling SFPD investigators to more fully inform partner agencies within the California Highway Patrol's Organized Retail Crime Task Force. By better facilitating information from incidents together with accompanying evidence, the initiative can help to solve retail theft cases and more effectively target the upstream criminal enterprises fueling them.

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