San Francisco, CA – City leaders today announced that the 2023 holiday shopping season saw the lowest levels of reported theft in San Francisco in years and an increase in visitors to major Downtown destinations, including in Union Square.
Local law enforcement has been conducting ongoing strategic operations to disrupt car break-ins and retail theft citywide, and to heighten safety efforts in shopping areas during the holidays. These efforts have coincided alongside coordinated efforts with the state and federal government to disrupt and shut down drug markets.
Between November 20, 2023, and January 1, 2024, compared to the same time period the year before, San Francisco saw a:
• 48% reduction in larceny theft (includes retail theft and auto break-ins)
• 17% reduction in motor vehicle theft
• 26% reduction in burglaries
These reductions in crimes were paired with increases to people returning to shop and visit in Union Square and Downtown areas. Holiday activations, reliable transit, and safe parking options helped to create an atmosphere to support San Francisco during the holiday season.
From November 20 through the end of December 2023, San Francisco saw increases into major retail areas like Union Square and Downtown compared to the same time last year, with:
• 58% increase in weekday transit riders exiting Powell and Union Square/Market Street Muni Rail stations
• 54% increase in weekend transit riders exiting Powell and Union Square/Market Street Muni Rail stations
• An 11% increase in unique daily visitors to Union Square Park
Over the course of the 10-day Winter Walk activation alone, the Union Square Alliance estimates a generated financial boost in the tens of millions of dollars. As the holiday season concludes, the Union Square and Downtown areas are planning for more activity, including welcoming back the 42nd Annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in Union Square, which begins January 8 and runs through January 11, 2024.
“The holidays in San Francisco are a magical time, and I’m proud of the work we are doing to make our City safer and more welcoming for everyone,” said Mayor London Breed. “We have invested in public safety – including deploying officers and community ambassadors – and we have invested in making our City more active and vibrant. As we move into 2024, we will continue to focus on doing the hard work to lift up San Francisco, to prevent and deter crime when we can, and to respond quickly with clear accountability when people do break the law.”
“The San Francisco Police Department will continue to enforce the law and protect our residents, businesses and visitors,” said Police Chief Bill Scott. “I’m encouraged by the success we’ve had in reducing retail crime during the holiday season, but this is just a start. We are expanding our efforts as we hire more officers and find ways to better use technology to ensure San Francisco is a safe place for everybody.”
"The results are clear. When city leaders coordinate to identify, arrest, and prosecute those who attempt to wreak havoc on our businesses, residents, and visitors, we create a safer city for all," said District Attorney Brooke Jenkins. "I am grateful for the additional investments made by our local and state partners towards public safety, and as we move into 2024, my office will continue to send a strong message that all crime is illegal in San Francisco."
The reductions in larceny theft reached lows not seen in the last five years, including during the pandemic.
San Francisco will work to maintain these reduced levels in property crimes entering into 2024. The augmented efforts include the installation of 400 new automated license plate cameras to disrupt retail theft and other crimes, the deployment of more patrol officers into neighborhoods by expanding the SFPD Reserve Office program, and next month graduating the largest Police Academy class the city has seen in over three years. Applications to the Police Academy are at the highest levels in five years, and more classes are being added.
"The winter holiday season brought a remarkable surge of momentum to Union Square, attracting visitors from the greater Bay Area, Northern California, and the Central Valley to rediscover the holiday magic of Union Square," said Marisa Rodriguez, CEO of the Union Square Alliance. "The positive reactions from visitors were heart-warming as they conveyed that our community's spirit and strong police presence contradicted the negative media portrayals, demonstrating that this event pays for itself many times over. We extend our sincere appreciation for the financial support provided by the Mayor’s Office, the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, and the San Francisco Police who made this activation a reality."
Building on this momentum, Union Square Plaza will again transform later this year with oversized floral installations and featured floral cocktails at restaurants and bars. With these exciting events on the horizon, the coming year will be a robust and thriving one for the Union Square area.
“We look forward to continuing to build on the momentum of this busy holiday season in and around Union Square, with more events, activations, and openings of new business like the Chotto Matte rooftop restaurant in the former Macy's Men's building,” said Sarah Dennis Phillips, Executive Director of the Office of Economic and Workforce Development. “With ongoing public and private investment in the revitalization of this neighborhood, visitors and locals alike will find Union Square to be a vibrant and safe place to bring their families and friends.”
“San Francisco’s public plazas, including historic Union Square, are experiencing a renaissance,” said Phil Ginsburg, San Francisco Recreation and Park General Manager. “Union Square Park is alive with public art, ice skating, cultural celebrations and delicious food at Chef Tyler Florence’s new Miller & Lux cafes. Our rangers and gardeners ensure this iconic public space is safe and beautiful all year long.”
“John’s Grill has seen a massively positive impact from the winter walk,” said John Konstin, owner of John’s Grill. “We saw a 30 to 40 % spike in business. Thousands of guests flooded through our doors saying how beautiful our Union Square downtown area is. They would walk into John’s Grill and talk about how beautiful the restaurant was done up for the holidays and how it added so much to their trip dining in such a historic and beautifully decorated restaurant. The Winter Walk and the Union Square ice rink brings so many people to the neighborhood and gets everyone into the spirit. We love and appreciate all our Mayor London Breed and Marisa Rodriguez with the Union Square Alliance does for our beautiful neighborhood. John’s Grill is here to serve the community and beyond. Thank you for an amazing 2023! See you in 2024.”
"During Winter Walk, Hed Very Thai saw a 40% surge in reservations, notably on weekends, leading to full bookings from Friday night to Sunday night,” said Billie Wannajaro, owner of Hed Very Tahi. “Sales have doubled, marking a remarkable 100% growth from November. On the event's final day, the 24th of December, our 49-seat restaurant served an astonishing 147 covers, a testament to the event's success. This gathering not only brought vibrancy to downtown but also fueled economic prosperity for workers and small businesses. Here's to hoping this becomes an annual tradition."