Walgreens Reduces Private Security: Admits Stop-Loss Requires Better Police Protection

The “rash” of Walgreens thefts reported in 2021 was always about organized crime.

Kehoe’s message Thursday was much calmer than a year ago, when he warned that Walgreens was “absorbing a 52% increase in shrink” at the end of 2021. At the time, he attributed a large part of the shrink to organized retail crime. “This is not petty theft,” Kehoe said in a January 2022 investor call. “It’s not somebody who can’t afford to eat tomorrow. These are gangs that actually go in and empty our stores of beauty products. And it’s a real issue.”

I don’t know if it’s because I led computer security at a large retail/wholesale company, or because I have focused my research on integrity fixes in large infrastructure (e.g. national security), but this organized crime angle was obvious to me on day one.

Unfortunately, far too many people tried to promote a fake narrative that individuals were looting stores out of desperation.

Walgreens executives seemed to have believed that runaway story, which led them foolishly to boost huge spend into private security (mercenaries).

Privatized security is historically totally ineffective addressing systemic integrity flaws such as organized crime. Walgreens should have known better.

Private spend actually increased cost of loss because it added expense on top of loss that wouldn’t be stopped effectively.

What happened in San Francisco has to do with that city’s unique problem and history of deep-seated police corruption.

…federal court jury found two veteran officers guilty of stealing property and thousands of dollars in cash…

You would not believe the depths of flagrantly coin-operated “bad cop” behaviors if you read case details.

Those Walgreens thefts may end up exposing large levels of police corruption if focus can ever really be brought on their role.

…SB 1421 made public all records of police dishonesty, shootings, sexual assault, and use-of-force causing serious injury. If the San Francisco Police Department records released under the law so far are representative of the whole, nearly half the force have disclosable records. In other words, many police officers on our streets have been either been found dishonest, shot at people, or seriously hurt them.

There’s a reason criminal gangs send people from around the world into Golden Gate Park to get an “assignment” for local “jobs”. The extremely high rate of vehicle burglary is really a symptom of police playing strange power games.

December 2022: just thirty days of car break-ins in San Francisco, visualized from police reports. You might notice some obvious patterns. Source: SF Chronicle

Consider theft data such as this:

Walgreens has closed 17 stores in San Francisco in the past five years. Theft in the pharmaceutical chain’s 53 remaining stores is four times the average for stores elsewhere in the country, and the chain spends 35 times more on security guards in the city than elsewhere, Jason Cunningham, regional vice president for pharmacy and retail operations in California and Hawaii, said at the hearing in May.

Spending more on security guards was always a mistake, for the same reason it has always been a problem (e.g. Milwaukee “Irish guard” history).

I remember well how Lombardi’s Sporting Goods store managers told me they needed to have special staff on registers and guards monitoring the front door for petty thieves.

In fact, after I did quick analysis, it looked to me more a back office issue.

To prove the point I literally found police on the loading dock taking their pick and diverting unshelved goods.

This isn’t to say the front door wasn’t also a problem. But front door guards experienced planned heists more than small theft, such as high margin (giant bag) “stuff and run” tactics of organized crime. The guards did what they were paid to do and nothing more.

That’s exactly what everyone saw in the videos of Walgreens.

Who are you going to call when the police benefit from ignoring systemic crime, let alone participate in it as an enrichment scheme?

Lombardi’s closed not long after, to be replaced by high rise condos.

Aside from evidence of police sitting on their hands or engaged in back room handouts, another obvious sign San Francisco police ignored organized crime (perhaps rising into conspiracy) is how they shamelessly politicized problems as someone else’s job.

“What happened in that Walgreens has been going on in that city for quite a while,” San Francisco police Lt. Tracy McCray said on Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom” Wednesday.

That city? THAT city?

A San Francisco police lieutenant refers to San Francisco as THAT city?

What ever happened to OUR city?

If you get the impression from an appearance on a right-wing propaganda spigot that San Francisco police love the idea of militarized helicoptering into THAT city yet not living or spending time there… you’d be right.

Here’s some personal perspective from the ground.

In THAT city, I had surveilled, intervened, then tailed a suspect with obvious stolen goods (arguably worth over $1000, even though he claimed $100). I kept police apprised even when they repeatedly told me I could stand down. I politely refused to let the suspect get away and instead described him precisely as I flushed him into their dragnet.

Two police officers put high powered rifles and armor away into their armored car when they turned to me and asked “so man, that was good work, and you knew chief made him this week’s top target?”

No, of course I didn’t, nor did I need to know to hone in on the right spot.

I wasn’t operating in mercenary capacity, rather as a citizen. Being out on the streets and in stores, participating in society like safety professionals in cities are meant to do, meant their “top” target of an obvious criminal was… obvious.

It was too easy.

Mercenaries look where they’re being paid to look. And say what they’re paid to say.

Can you guess why so many police apparently overlooked a top target from behind a windshield, when they could have walked right into him instead?

Don’t get me started on an example even closer to home — how the city’s IT administrator had setup protection under the sheriff’s office to attempt to attack the city’s critical infrastructure.

Another story for another day. Details of Terry Childs’ corruption of a city from the inside may never be made public but suffice to say the prosecutors did a fine job despite law enforcement failing to do theirs.

He almost got away.

New York, for obvious comparison, is dramatically better at retail crime numbers because they worked harder and better to end organized crime and corruption. LaGuardia really should be a name every American knows well.

Walgreens is finally saying what needs to be said.

The CFO called private security firms “ineffective” and said the company plans to rely on police instead.

San Francisco police displaying extremist far-right political tactics, increasingly detached and over-militarized, are continuously failing the people they are supposed to protect.

Can they be relied upon?

The question is why San Francisco police can keep pointing fingers everywhere but themselves, as Mayor Moscone (not to mention LaGuardia again) is probably rolling in his grave.

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