By Lee Brown
November 26, 2021
-New York Post
A tech store in San Francisco is paying a staggering $30,000 each month to hire bulletproof vest-clad security guards — but still fears it might not be enough to stop California’s plague of smash-and-grab thieves.
B8ta, the futuristic electronics chain with a branch in Manhattan’s Hudson Yards, already permanently closed one store in the Golden Gate City over an alarming uptick in robberies, its CEO told the San Francisco Chronicle.
Another was closed for seven months after an armed robber stole two high-end laptops in February — and is only open again because the venture capital-backed company can afford around-the-clock guards.
CEO Vibhu Norby said the $30,000 bill for security guards is more than what they pay for their five employees — and even more than the shop’s monthly rent.
The store is close to Union Square, the San Francisco shopping district that was hit by organized gangs last weekend, which Norby said “sort of” validated B8ta’s mammoth protection costs.
“But I don’t know how security stops 80 people,” the CEO told the local paper, referring to the worst scenes of flash-mob robbers that police now think actually involved 90 crooks.
He also acknowledged that it is something they can only consider because B8ta is “an unprofitable venture-backed company.”
“It’s something that most businesses can’t afford, but we can,” he told the Chronicle of his at-risk neighbors.
“We want to make it work. We love being there. It’s our home store,” Norby said of the branch in San Fran’s Hayes Valley. “Under normal circumstances, we would have closed this store,” he said.
Local merchants association president Lloyd Silverstein also complained to the paper that “organized crime seems to be getting much more brazen.”
Still, although the previous week’s wave of flash mob-style raids has raised the profile of such crimes in California, it has been an ongoing problem, experts told the paper.
The National Retail Federation said that the city hit hardest by organized retail crime last year was Los Angeles, with San Francisco second. New York was fourth.
“San Francisco was always a challenge, even before the pandemic,” said Tony Sheppard, director of loss prevention solutions at ThinkLP.
“San Francisco is the easiest place to sell what you steal. I’ve never seen so much blatant purchasing of stolen products than anywhere else,” he told the Chronicle.
Like many, Sheppard blamed the soft-on-shoplifting local leaders, saying it has made retail theft “a low-risk, high-reward crime.”
“Until the district attorney in conjunction with law enforcement take a hard stance on organized retail crime, they will continue to have major issues,” Sheppard told the paper.
“The criminal element must believe there will be consequences both for the theft and fencing of the stolen goods.”