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San Francisco store tests new shopping method to deter ‘rampant shoplifting’

SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) – A longtime San Francisco business is trying something new to curb what it says has been “rampant shoplifting.”

Fredericksen’s Hardware and Paint in Cow Hollow is now offering a one-on-one shopping experience. The idea is to separate actual customers from those looking to steal from the store.

During certain hours, Fredericksen’s blocks off part of the store’s entrance and has people wait for an employee to help them instead of allowing people to just roam the store. The store’s longtime manager says it’s a move that was worth trying for the sake of the business, their employees, and their customers.

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“It’s pretty bad,” manager Sam Black told Nexstar’s KRON. “I mean, the dollar amounts are pretty significant, and with the tools, and now we’re getting snatch-and-grabs when they take whole displays, so it’s getting kind of dangerous for the employees and the customers.”

Black says for two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening an employee will work with individual customers. A table at the front serves as a way to keep potential thieves from moving freely in and out of the store.

“We just want to make it uncomfortable for the thieves so they go somewhere else,” Black said.

Black said over his 24 years of working at Fredericksen’s, the theft is the worst it has ever been. The staff has had to drill down pots and pans to keep shoplifters from swiping them.

They’ve also had to put in locking systems to keep people from pocketing tools and other household hardware. One customer told KRON off-camera that the situation is “just sad.”

“Yeah, people aren’t happy,” Black said. “The regulars can’t believe it like we can’t believe it, but they’ve been really understanding.”

Black says he and his staff had to try something because they have not had much success getting help from city leaders or police.

At this point, the one-on-one shopping experiment has been going on for three weeks. Black says they’ll review the results after a month.

San Francisco supervisor Catherine Stefani issued the following statement about the situation:

“This situation is tragic and embarrassing for our city, and it’s all the more reason to get serious about solving our police staffing crisis. We need more police on our streets, and we need them now. That’s why I’ll hold a series of hearings in March to push our city agencies to fill the hundreds of vacancies at the Police Department as soon as possible––to stop the bleeding, reverse the damage, and finally protect our residents and small businesses.”

Just last week, Mayor London Breed released new crime numbers for the city, showing declines in robberies, burglaries, and larceny-theft, including car break-ins and retail theft, for January. That builds on improvements recorded in 2023, the mayor’s office said.

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