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Organized Shoplifting Forces Closure Of 5 Walgreens In San Francisco

Undeterred by a security guard and a TV reporter recording his act, a thief raided a Walgreens store in San Francisco on a bicycle, with a garbage bag in his hand full of stolen goods.

The brazen shoplifting video, shot in June, was watched by millions. Critics say this underlines how epidemic thefts at retail stores have become in the city.

It was the fifth time the thief had targeted the same Walgreens store located on Gough Street in the Hayes Valley neighborhood, police said.

On June 19, the San Francisco Police Department said it had arrested the man, identified as Jean Lugo-Romero, 40. Investigators said he was responsible for a number of thefts in the Northern and Mission districts.

A video grab of Jean Lugo-Romero stealing goods inside the Walgreens store.

Lugo-Romero faces burglary and robbery charges for the five times he stole from that particular Walgreens store, including on four consecutive days in late May, early June.

Four months later, Walgreens said it has decided to close the stores plus four others in the city in November due to the continuing issue of organized shoplifting in San Francisco.

‘Organized Retail Theft Challenging’

In an email to The New York Times, Phil Caruso, spokesman for Walgreens said, “Organized shoplifting has been a continuing challenge facing retailers in San Francisco. Retail theft across our stores in San Francisco are fives the average across our chain.”

Walgreens said professional thieves steal from their stores and then resell the goods through the online marketplace. According to police, most of the retail crime in the city is the handiwork of organized gangs.

In a board meeting in May, Walgreens’ representatives said the company had to close 17 stores because thefts had made doing business untenable at these stores.

With the fresh closure, Walgreens stores in the city which have shut have gone up to 22. The company has more than 50 stores in the city.

Employees working in these stores will be shifted to other locations and customers will have their prescriptions transferred to nearby stores.

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