Progressives in California in recent years have strengthened property rights—to other people’s property. Shoplifting has essentially been decriminalized, and retailers that apprehend thieves can be sued. The result: Another Walgreens store in San Francisco, the seventh this year, is closing after its shelves were cleared by looters.
“All of us knew it was coming,” longtime customer Sebastian Luke told the San Francisco Chronicle. “Whenever we go in there, they always have problems with shoplifters.”
Mr. Luke has been posting photos of the shoplifting sprees. “I feel sorry for the clerks, they are regularly being verbally assaulted,” he said. “The clerks say there is nothing they can do. They say Walgreens’ policy is to not get involved. They don’t want anyone getting injured or getting sued, so the guys just keep coming in and taking whatever they want.”
Several retailers in the state have been sued by people caught shoplifting who claimed to be victims of racial profiling. Businesses understandably fear bad publicity and hefty payouts that may exceed their losses from the theft. Some large retailers including Goodwill, Walmart and Bloomingdale’s sought to punish shoplifters by requiring them to take a class in “life skills” to avoid a criminal complaint. The San Francisco city attorney then sued the educational company that provided the classes for extortion and false imprisonment.
In California, in short, trying to protect one’s property can be a criminal offense. Looters, on the other hand, typically go free thanks to a 2014 referendum that turned theft of property valued at less than $950 into a misdemeanor. Police stopped apprehending shoplifters because it wasn’t worth their time as thieves were released.