defund police protest san francisco
© AFP / Viivian Lin
Protesters march with a banner mocking a dollar bill that reads ‘Defund police, Fund black youth’ during a rally to mark Juneteenth in San Francisco, California.
When it comes to defunding the police, you need only look at this city to see how it ends up. Pharmacy chains and other stores are shutting up shop, all because the law enforcement there is so anemic and the criminals so brazen.

I often wonder what people who ask for police defunding are expecting a city with less policing to look like. It seems that we don't have to go far to find the answer. In fact, we can look at current speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's congressional district of San Francisco. Specifically, the rampant crime and shoplifting problems that have caused several pharmacies to close.

A recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle details the exact amount of damage that is caused by these policies. San Francisco has become a hub of organized retail crime, costing companies thousands upon thousands of dollars and causing store closures. The California penal code treats the shoplifting of goods worth less than $950 as a misdemeanor. Often people charged with these crimes are simply let go.

The resulting spike in shoplifting has seen the pharmacy chain Walgreens alone forced to shutter 17 of its stores in the city. Theft in their shops in the city is four times the average elsewhere in the country, and the chain spends 35 times more on security guards in the city than elsewhere. At CVS, another pharmacy chain, 42% of losses in the Bay Area came from 12 stores in San Francisco, which make up only 8% of the market share.

It's not just shops being affected - home burglaries, and crimes such as car break-ins and the theft of bikes and parcels, have all soared.

So, with little police presence, plus little to no penalty, people who don't give a damn about other people or businesses are more than happy to intrude upon them and steal from them. The resulting blight, as shops close and move out of the city and workers end up losing their jobs, is huge. It will affect the job market for the entire region, because no one wants to sell their goods in a place where they're just going to get stolen by somebody looking to resell them somewhere else.

Compare the California penal code to that of another state, Illinois, which actually enforces these laws properly. Shoplifting goods worth under $300 can land you in jail for over a year. Texas isn't as harsh, but its statutes for shoplifting under $1,000 of merchandise are still steep, with fines of around $4,000 and up to a year in jail.

Whether people want to admit it or not, steep penalties and strong law enforcement are deterrents to crime. If you're looking at having to pay four times or more the cost of stealing something, or might spend up to a year of your life in jail, suddenly you're more willing to just get out your debit card and pay for it, because the risk-reward factor is by no means slanted in your favor.

Not to mention, let's say that you're the mayor of a city and you want your economy to improve. You want businesses and their owners to feel safe operating within your town. The best way to ensure that, and keep the peace, is to have cops on duty there. If someone goes into a pharmacy and notices a police officer on the corner nearby, they realize that it's probably better just to do honest business like any other customer.

Ultimately, some businesses may play to woke sensibilities when it comes to their corporate messaging, but the bottom line is that the only color they really care about is green.

San Francisco is a prime example of why strong law enforcement is good for society, and its absence is bad for it. Everyone benefits except for the criminals, plus it keeps organized crime from being able to create a scalpers market using stolen goods.

It should speak volumes that one of the top search results that auto-populates if you put 'Walgreens shoplifting,' is 'tips' for it. You can get directed to a Reddit site giving practical advice on how to do it at such stores.

San Francisco has long-enjoyed a reputation as being a laid-back city where anything goes. Now anything does go: its businesses feel under siege, many of its residents feel like prisoners in their own homes, and thieves and drug addicts rule its streets. It all feels more regressive than progressive.
Micah Curtis is a game and tech journalist from the US. Aside from writing for RT, he hosts the podcast Micah and The Hatman, and is an independent comic book writer. Follow Micah at @MindofMicahC