Cities Crack Down on Booming Steal Industry

December 16, 2021

Who would have thought progressive politicians would get tough on crime? Yet after two years of unprecedented criminal activity, those politicians are feeling the hurt from residents and businesses. In a dramatic about-face, San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced an initiative to "be more aggressive with law enforcement" to end "the reign of criminals who are destroying our city." The initiative includes an "Emergency Intervention Plan" for the most crime-plagued neighborhoods, emergency police funding, removing barriers to officers preventing crimes, and disrupting illegal activities taking place in broad daylight. It's hard to believe this is the same Mayor Breed who proposed to defund the police budget by $120 million in 2020.

Breed isn't the only San Francisco politician to condemn rising crime. "It has to be stopped," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. "There is an attitude of lawlessness in our country that springs from I don't know where." Why doesn't she know? Here are three possible explanations: 1) She can't remember 2020, 2) She is completely out-of-touch with the lives of ordinary Americans, or 3) The ideological poison of woke racial politics has completely poisoned her rational faculties. Personally, I believe Speaker Pelosi is nothing if not a mastermind, so I lean towards a fourth explanation: she knows the cause and is unwilling to admit it.

But Congressman Dan Bishop (R-N.C.) wasn't afraid to make the diagnosis. "It started with riots across the country," he said, "following Memorial Day of last year and the George Floyd tragedy. And Democrats excused it. They said that those were 'peaceful protests.'" In fact, Democrats sided with the rioters against police, even calling to "defund the police," as if they were the problem.

San Francisco was driving the "soft-on-crime" bandwagon before it was cool to jump on. Restrictive engagement rules hamper law enforcement's ability to apprehend perpetrators. A 2014 California ballot measure downgraded crimes of property theft under $950 from a felony to a misdemeanor. And since 2020 San Francisco's new, uber-Left District Attorney (now facing a recall election) has simply refused to even file charges in the majority of cases when police do make arrests.

The city's "soft-on-crime" stance made it crime's pincushion. Criminals steal merchandise from local retailers and resell the goods on the street. The Sunday before Thanksgiving, nearly 50 teens wielding hammers smashed up display cases in a jewelry store and looted an unknown amount of goods -- and such incidents are growing commonplace. Some retailers, feeling abandoned by city leaders, are cutting their losses and getting out of dodge. Walgreens has closed 17 locations in San Francisco, and claims other locations in the city see four times more theft than anywhere else in the nation, even as they spend 35 times more on security.

Thieves don't just target retailers. In November, San Francisco registered over 3,000 car burglaries, so many that car owners have resorted to leaving their trunks open and windows rolled down to deter potential thieves from damaging the vehicle. This unchecked crime has outsized negative consequences. When stores close down, that not only harms the employees who lose jobs, but the residents who patronized them, particularly if they are poor. Car burglary, reselling stolen goods on the street, and other illegal activity makes streets and neighborhoods less safe.

"San Francisco is a compassionate city," Breed explained, "but our compassion cannot be mistaken for weakness or indifference." As recently as last year, many Democrats vilified anyone who stood for police departments as participants in systemic racism. Now, after a brutal, nearly-suicidal self-experiment in non-policing, even the most progressive cities have rediscovered this truth: only law enforcement stops lawlessness.