By Ava Cohen
London Breed announced a police-led initiative to decrease retail crime rates in late September, partnered with retailers and regional law enforcement. The initiative has three main aspects; expanding and reallocating police budgeting and resources, restructuring of private and public deployments, and public-private funding to help report and solve cases. So, in short, this initiative is a whole new load of police funding.
“Retail theft and commercial burglaries are not victimless crimes. 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,” says Mayor Breed.
While it’s unfortunate that many storefronts have had to close, it’s also unfair to blame it all on struggling individuals who have to resort to shoplifting to survive. Mayor Breed doesn’t have a whole lot of influence on the system as a whole and so I can’t chide her for all of it, but we also can’t blame a few individuals for the way that an entire system functions. There are ways for the government to build better cushioning for both individuals and local businesses to fall back on so that nobody has to suffer under the effects of a pandemic, and yet they continuously choose not to. Police primarily exist to protect profit and capital, and giving them more money and power won’t do anything to support the people who are stealing to survive. It is a temporary solution to a long term problem.
If we wanted to look at longer term solutions, we would look at ways that local businesses can be financially supported in times of crisis and hardship. After all, if it were only a matter of shoplifters being the issue, then businesses would’ve been shutting down before the pandemic. This only goes to prove the point further, it is more directly a matter of people not receiving the support they need in a global pandemic.
Mayor Breed has historically proven to favor and center the police department, and while she has done a fair deal to help the homeless residents in the city, this new initiative would directly impact that very community in a negative way. This initiative would restrict access to vital resources that all people need to survive, and as of April 2021, 1,990 people are homeless in San Francisco, meaning that they likely do not have the money to pay for a lot of things they need and must resort to shoplifting.