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We’re hearing a lot about the overwhelming number of murders and attempted murders in Chicago and New York. San Francisco has gone in a different direction. It seems to have become the “shoplifting” capital of America. This honor goes along with its long having been the capital of America for car break-ins. It’s so bad that I know suburbanites who refuse to drive in the city. The latest “shoplifting” video is an impressive one, showing a whole gang of thieves racing out of San Francisco’s Neiman Marcus store on Union Square, clutching what appears to be thousands of dollars in handbags: You’ll notice that I twice bracketed the word “shoplifting” in quotation marks. I did so because what you see in that video is not “shoplifting” as we’ve traditionally understood it. Old-fashioned shoplifting is when a person skulks through a store, slipping merchandise into clothes or a bag, and then sneaks out, hoping not to be caught. What’s happening in San Francisco is something much more extreme. Stores can absorb traditional shoplifting as one of the costs of doing business. What they cannot handle is an endless hemorrhage of thousands of dollars of merchandise.

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