Shoplifting And The City

female friends walking in underground passage after shopping
Photo by Tim Douglas on

I really liked Cynthia Nixon in Sex and the City. She was always impeccable, smooth, cutting, gorgeously turned out, and she has great hair. She dropped off my radar when SATC fizzled out. Apparently she is dipping her toe into NY state politics, which is all well and good, except she is clearly so buffered by privilege she cannot see the wood for the trees.

New York is mirroring San Francisco in escalating crime rates. San Francisco has seen a rise in shop lifting, which has become systemic and organized, and as a result I have noticed prices spiralling. I paid a vast amount for a pack of female sanitary protection napkins and some soap. You see someone has to pay, and it is the honest and poor that cannot afford to subsidize these gangs of thieves that seem to hit drug stores on a daily basis. It is a small and dark joke that we check to see if the local Walgreens has been emptied today, before we go, since we do not want to stumble into a nasty scene.

Cynthia, in her little Soho bubble with it’s multimillion dollar apartments, suggested in a tweet that it was inhumane to ‘lock up’ items in CVS and to prosecute shoplifters. If you are interested in exactly what she said, here it is:

Why doesn’t she donate her money to a food bank? Why doesn’t she set up a charity to help struggling families? Why should some hard working people, who are also struggling, subsidize repeat offenders who sell this stuff off, and gangs which make the city so much less safe?

I completely agree with not criminalizing poverty and desperation, but this is not what is going on. If there are no consequences to criminal actions – and shoplifting is not a victimless crime – then of course crime will spiral. The consequences of this in SF this year are that 17 Walgreens in SF have closed. That means that people who find it hard to travel many blocks to get their prescriptions and the kind of things Walgreens sells, now struggle.

We no longer have a Walmart even in Oakland. Shops are closing down because they cannot take the losses, which means a loss of jobs, and a spiral of poverty and desperation. Crime is breaking both New York and San Francisco (and Chicago and Miami who are above the list before SF in shoplifting theft crimes this year), and that is far from compassionate.

It is a total drag to have to call over an associate in Safeway or the drug store, ask them to unlock a cabinet, they then take away the item, and put it with customer services. You then tell the checkout worker which items you have, and they go and find them. I’ve taken to writing down a list of things as I get them unlocked, and my shopping takes much longer than it would have done.

It is ok for the rich to have compassion, these things don’t affect them. They can live in safer areas, they can afford inflated prices, and are not the ones running these shops and losing so much money to organized crime. Compassion is cheap to people who have such privilege. Meanwhile, down here with the rest of us, it is a constant and alarming struggle to stay safe and just survive, and things are not getting better. How about some compassion for the victims? How about not equating poverty with criminality? Make things better, instead of shrugging shoulders and accepting lawlessness.

Things had better get better before I turn into a wicked Republican, and that would be no good at all.


  1. rebecca s revels

    It is very frustrating to track down someone with a working key to get the product you need all the while their little camera is making weird noises letting you know you’re being watched very closely.

    1. The Paltry Sum

      I don’t go into safeway if I can help it, and use Amazon for as much of the rest as I can, but sometimes you need to go into a drug store. I can’t stand it, but really don’t blame them. It is all locked away where you are? It looks so civilized?!

      1. rebecca s revels

        Walmart has done it for many items because so many were shoplifting stuff and selling it at flea markets or online stores..I don’t know about other places because I shop very little anymore.

      2. rebecca s revels

        I hate that. There is one not all that far from here that you couldn’t pay me to shop at. The last time I went there were five or six police cars along the front. nope nope nope.. I never tried to find out what was going on, just stayed in the car and drove myself right on out.

      3. The Paltry Sum

        Very very sensible. We can’t even get to Target, because that part of town – Mission – is so dangerous right now. I wouldn’t dream of trying to do it again. Last time we were chased by a crackhead. I know it is sad, but I really think psych wards need to reopen.

      4. rebecca s revels

        Truth be told, I wondered that myself. There needs to be a way to help those who cannot, will not help themselves but in a way that is right and not the nightmares we have heard from the past.

      5. The Paltry Sum

        I am not suggesting nightmare sanitoriums with electric shock therapy, more supportive places for people who cannot be allowed to hurt themselves or others.

      6. The Paltry Sum

        That’s good! …Im slightly concerned I am turning rather conservatively republican in my old age…not trumpian…but this woke shit is helping no one!

      7. The Paltry Sum

        It really isn’t helping, Rebecca, is it! It is giving up and then not having to deal with the aftermath. Americans deserve the right to a safe and peaceful existence – the pursuit of happiness. The majority’s happiness cannot be held hostage by the drug crazed insane and violent debauchery of the few.

  2. Time Traveler of Life

    Please don’t go that far! You will be lost in the cry of “Lock em’ up!” hard on crime nincompoops! If people were not so damn poor and have no way to enjoy life, they would not steal, at least most of them.

    1. The Paltry Sum

      These are not poor people stealing to get things they need, but hardened gangs of criminals emptying entire stores and committing acts of violence upon hardworking staff.

    2. The Paltry Sum

      Shops and the hardworking people who own them cannot afford to give goods away. Besides these robberies are committed by organized gangs, who sell on to small shops, not poor people who can’t afford small amounts of goods. I don’t steal, not even when I have been hungry. It makes goods more expensive for honest but poor people, and shuts essential shops down in poor areas.

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