by UnHerd
Wednesday, 16
June 2021
Chart
15:26

Who’d have thought? Decriminalising crime has consequences

In San Francisco, out of control shoplifting is driving chains out of the city
by UnHerd
Walgreens has already closed seventeen of its San Francisco branches due to out-of-control shoplifting

It isn’t exactly the crime of the century, but nevertheless it’s making headlines around the world.

You can see the footage here and here, but this is the gist: a man enters a Walgreens pharmacy in San Francisco, stuffs a black plastic bag full of items from the shelves, and then cycles off.

There are witnesses, including a security guard. They film the incident and the guard tries to grab the bag, but the thief gets away with it.

Judging from the footage, there’s no violence, not even an angry word. But that’s what makes the whole thing so shocking: the nonchalance of all involved. It’s as if everyone present knows that there’s not much that can be done about it.   

And they’re basically right about that. The following chart tweeted out by Michael Shellenberger shows, for San Francisco, the percentage of shoplifting cases that end in arrest. 

As can be seen, arrest rates plummeted from about 60% in 2014 to about 40% five years later. Over the last two years, they’ve collapsed to less than 20%. 

Shellenberger is careful to state that correlation does not equal causation. However, he also points out that 2014 was the year that California passed Proposition 47 which downgraded a series of nonviolent offences from felonies to misdemeanours. Those offences included the personal use of most illegal drugs and the shoplifting of goods worth up to $950. Thus it has become easier both to indulge one’s addiction and to fund it through stealing. 

Of course, it’s not a complete free-for-all. Most residents of the city still pay for their shopping. But if, on the other hand, you’re homeless and jobless then materially there’s not much to lose. 

Then again, if you’re a law-abiding citizen who depends on the availability of local shops then there’s a great deal to lose. Pharmacies are a particular point of vulnerability. The items they provide are vital to the infirm, but also attract shoplifters because they’re non-perishable and comparatively valuable. At some point, retailers have to decide whether it’s worth the aggravation. Walgreens has already closed seventeen of its San Francisco branches due to out-of-control shoplifting. 

Ultimately, people get what they vote for. California voted 60% to 40% for Proposition 47. In San Francisco county the split was even more decisive: 80% to 20%. 

Just how bad do things have to get before voters change their minds?

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Sharon Overy
Sharon Overy
1 year ago

Those that can simply move to an area with lower crime – usually a red state. Then they start demanding and voting for the same kinds of policies that have made such a mess of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland etc. They never learn – just move their destructiveness.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 year ago

A friend who lives in Seattle has also been to SF and Portland very recently. She says it is all a hot mess.

T Doyle
T Doyle
1 year ago

The issue is affluence. People become more left wing as their family achieves upward social mobility. Maybe it’s a guilt trip? Losing touch with reality? Until these affluent socialists or “progressives” feel the real economic and emotional pain nothing will change.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 year ago
Reply to  T Doyle

I think that is about to change for everyone

Douglas McCallum
Douglas McCallum
1 year ago

In what grotesque universe is it “progressive” to deliberately encourage and promote theft and law-breaking? How is it “progressive” to victimise shop-keepers or folk who no longer have a pharmacy close by? How many law-abiding people will want to open a business in a lawless city? Or is that what “progressives” really want: a society without law and without an economy?

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
1 year ago

Is it that that morality no longer matters? Somehow insurance and business have become targets because they are not people. We all pay for theft. But that seems beyond understanding of some politicians who think they are helping the poor. The shoplifter no long cares about society at large only their selfish needs. What happens when they graduate to higher levels of crime? If prosecution is too cumbersome, devise a better method.

Stephen Follows
Stephen Follows
11 months ago

The Left are so very stupid, aren’t they?