SAN FRANCISCO — Small businesses in San Francisco are dealing with repeated vandalism and break-ins, so much so that merchants are wondering if it’s even feasible to stay in the city.
Josie Li, owner of La Boutique salon on Polk Street, said she’s been hit by burglars four times in the past year. She estimates the losses and repairs to be upwards of $40,000.
She said her insurance claims are so frequent, she worries her insurance carrier might start to question whether they’re legitimate.
Li said each time thieves have taken electronics, cash, and beauty products. Her mailbox has also been repeatedly pried open.
“It’s been shocking, but also not only traumatic but just surprising in one of the greatest, expensive cities you would think that it would be able to sustain the business,” Li said.
In January, the beauty salon’s cell phone was stolen. Tracking technology showed that it was about a half mile away near Van Ness and Geary.
“When the police arrived, it was already couple hours after I found the incident and by then the phone was already turned off,” she said.
Like many small business owners in San Francisco, Li is struggling to get people to come through the doors.
She opened this space a year ago, after shutting down her business for 18 months during the pandemic.
SFPD crime data shows that burglaries this year in the Northern District, which includes Polk Gulch, are up more than 30%, compared to the same time period last year.
“This is almost a national joke at this point for our city and it’s like we are trying to bring it up, we’re making this place as lively as possible,” Li said. “We as business owners now have to be out here fending for ourselves, which is dangerous.”
This month, Mayor London Breed introduced a $27 million budget supplemental to ensure continued police presence and expand hiring community ambassadors in business areas.
SFPD has a staffing shortage of 541 officers.
“I think police in the individual level when I see them, they’re very sympathetic and then they are like – they do try to help, they do do their job and file the report and everything, but I do think that we have defamed the police so much, that we now don’t have enough police,” said Li.
Li is questioning whether she should move her business elsewhere, but starting over is also costly. She said it’s taken her a year to build a clientele at her new location.
She added said the community benefit district is helping her with funds for a security system. She also said Polk Street has a community patrol person that starts at 5 am. The break-ins typically happen in the overnight hours.
Communications director at the SF district attorney’s office Randy Quezada said in a statement to KPIX 5:
The District Attorney is focused on improving public safety, restoring accountability and seeking justice. To improve operations and outcomes in cases like Le Café Du Soleil’s, District Attorney Jenkins created a Major Crimes Team within the General Felonies Division to focus on more serious and complex felony crimes like some armed robbery, and attempted murder cases which are time consuming and more complicated. With the establishment of this new team, prosecutors within General Felonies will be able to better handle property crime and other felony cases as they come.