San Francisco, CA – Today Mayor London N. Breed joined Police Chief Bill Scott, District Attorney Brooke Jenkins, and business and community leaders to kick off the 2023 Safe Shopper initiative in and around Union Square for the holiday season. The City will again deploy additional police and community ambassadors to the area to enhance public safety and maintain a safe shopping experience for visitors, workers, and residents.
Year to date larceny cases have dropped 10% citywide since last year, which is why the Mayor has asked SFPD and other City departments to sustain prioritization of organized retail theft disruption, focusing on key tourist areas.
Similar to last year, the City will work with the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) to limit points of entry in Union Square with some street closures to automobile traffic as added safety measures. In addition to a ramped-up police presence in and around Union Square, the City plans to increase patrol in parking garages by SFPD, Park Rangers, and other security personnel. More SFPD Community Ambassadors will be deployed to Union Square as part of the Safe Shopper initiative.
“As we welcome the many events and attractions that make San Francisco a unique place to celebrate the holiday season, we have to continue to dedicate resources to ensure our residents and visitors are safe,” said Mayor London Breed. “Our public safety focus remains citywide, but we also will work to protect our businesses and create a welcoming shopping experience for everyone. This year we will also benefit from new state funding to help us address retail theft that is already yielding results.”
This past September, Mayor Breed announced that San Francisco received $17 million in a state grant to combat organized retail theft. This includes $15 million in funding to support SFPD’s work to combat organized retail crime, which has helped to pay for overtime for SFPD officers to run targeted retail theft operations. Just yesterday, SFPD announced the arrest of four prolific organized retail theft suspects that have hit multiple locations throughout the City.
The grant also supports the purchase and installation of 400 automated license plate readers to cover 100 intersections throughout the City. The state grant also includes $2 million for the District Attorney’s Office to fund a full time dedicated Assistant District Attorney and a full-time dedicated District Attorney Investigator to prosecute retail theft crimes in San Francisco.
"The San Francisco Police Department will have officers out in force to ensure this holiday season is fun and safe for everyone," said Police Chief Bill Scott. "We're collaborating closely with our city partners so we're able to deter crime and respond quickly when necessary. I want to thank our officers who have been working hard and will continue to keep people safe as we begin this holiday shopping season."
The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office is now prosecuting felony retail theft cases vertically, from charging to final disposition. The dedicated Assistant District Attorney will work closely with SFPD partners to build cases and serve as a single point of contact for witnesses, SFPD, and victims in felony cases.
“I am proud to once again join Mayor Breed, the San Francisco Police Department and our many community and business partners to ensure a safe holiday experience for our residents, workers and visitors,” said District Attorney Brooke Jenkins. “My office will not hesitate to prosecute individuals or groups who continue to target our businesses for theft. We take these cases seriously and will do everything in our power to ensure there is accountability.”
For decades, Union Square has been known as an international destination for quality retail shopping, luxury hotels, world-class cultural institutions, vibrant public spaces, and exceptional dining. In addition, visitors from across the globe are drawn to the many events held in the square, including the Union Square in Bloom event in May that brings oversized floral displays to the area; American Tulip Day, which drew 35,000 visitors this year; and the Union Square in Bloom Summer Music Series, which brings as many as 1,000 people weekly. Other annual events include the Safeway Holiday Ice Rink, which kicked off earlier this month; the SFSPCA Holiday Windows at Macy’s, the Macy’s Great Tree, and the Bill Graham Menorah.
The Union Square Alliance will once again host Winter Walk, which is making its post-pandemic return. This activation drew over 2 million attendees to the area in 2018. Outside Lands producer Another Planet Entertainment has committed to bringing free outdoor concerts to downtown public spaces, including Union Square, for three consecutive years starting in 2024.
Aside from the annual events and new activations, the City has prioritized security in the area through public safety investments at the square and its underground garage, including improved lighting, increased police patrols, park ranger outreach, and additional ambassadors to oversee additional security tasks, janitorial duties, and customer service.
“San Francisco’s Union Square holds a special place in the hearts of San Franciscans, Bay Area residents, and visitors, especially during the holiday season,” said Marisa Rodriguez, Chief Executive Officer of the Union Square Alliance. “We want to thank our Mayor London Breed, Police Chief Scott, District Attorney Brooke Jenkins, and our City leaders for guaranteeing a secure and hospitable holiday experience that everyone can enjoy freely.”
Following the 2021 mass organized retail theft incident in Union Square that brought felony charges to multiple people, Mayor Breed announced the Safe Shopper initiative in tandem with the SFPD’s rollout of the Community Ambassador program, which is comprised of civilian retired police officers hired for their training and experience in community engagement.
Last month, Mayor Breed and the SFPD announced plans to expand San Francisco’s Reserve Police Officer Program, which would result in an expedited increase in foot patrols citywide. This will require legislation to be approved by the Board of Supervisors.