SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — Undercover San Francisco police officers spent one evening in the city’s biggest mall and busted nine retail thieves. Tuesday evening’s enforcement blitz inside San Francisco Centre was part of an ongoing citywide operation by the San Francisco Police Department.

“The operations are already showing promising results, with officers making dozens of arrests in recent days and recovering thousands of dollars in stolen merchandise at San Francisco’s most victimized retailers,” SFPD wrote.

A surge in enforcement in the city is being funded by a $15.3 million state grant aimed at combatting brazen and rampant retail thieves who plague local businesses.

“Our city will not tolerate criminals ransacking our businesses,” Police Chief Bill Scott said Friday. “Not only are these crimes devastating to our business community and local economy, too often we’ve seen these crimes escalate into violence.”

A suspected shoplifter is taken into custody at the mall. (SFPD photo)

A beloved store clerk was murdered in August by a man who stole two cans of beer from a convenience store on Balboa Street, prosecutors said. Santos De La Rosa, 21, of Hollister, beat the clerk to death with a baseball bat, according to investigators. The victim, Yohannes “John” Tewolde, had confronted De La Rosa with the bat in an attempt to stop him from shoplifting, but the beer thief gained control of the weapon, police said.

In San Francisco Centre mall Tuesday, officers fanned out through the mall, partnered with loss prevention employees, and communicated with a central command post to make arrests. Uniformed and plainclothes officers observed nine people stealing from businesses and swiftly arrested them.

Officers conducted similar operations at businesses like drug stores, grocery stores and apparel stores.

The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office was recently awarded state grant money to fund a dedicated retail theft prosecutor. District Attorney Brooke Jenkins said she is sending a message to thieves who think they can get away with theft.

Jenkins said, “The blitz operations, coupled with vigorous prosecution from my office, will send a message that these crimes are taken seriously, and San Francisco is not the place to commit these kinds of crimes. We will enforce our laws and stand for our neighborhoods and businesses that have been targeted and victimized by brazen thieves.”

The city has seen several major retailers pull out of San Francisco by closing stores over crime and security concerns. In August, after more than three decades as a staple retailer in downtown San Francisco, Nordstrom closed its doors for good at Westfield Mall. Then, Westfield also abandoned ship. Westfield had owned and operated San Francisco Centre on Market Street for more than two decades. 

The company that owns and operates the American Eagle retail chain filed a lawsuit against Westfield last month for letting the mall “deteriorate into disarray.” According to court records, Westfield allegedly allowed the mall to become a “lightning rod” for criminal activity.

Local small business owners have also been hit hard. An ice cream shop, What’s The Scoop, fell victim to burglars twice in one morning on June 3. Two thieves stole the shop’s cash register. Hours after the first break-in, another person broke in and used their hands to scoop ice cream out of containers. 

A KRON4 reporter was shopping at a Safeway store on Monterey Boulevard Monday evening when three young men fill up backpacks with stolen items and darted past a security guard. Shoppers expressed anger over the thieves’ brazenness and lack of consequences.