We now have three arrests of people allegedly selling clearly shoplifted goods on Mission Street, but the methods used make one wonder why we didn’t start doing this months or years ago.

Rampant vending in the Mission was never a notable issue until the practice exploded in 2021, which may or may not have had anything to do with the pandemic. It got to where they put fences up around the 24th Street BART plaza to deter vending over the summer, which showed no effectiveness whatsoever, and eventually protesters ripped the fences down. The SF Board of Supervisors passed street vending legislation which hoped to weed out the stolen-items vendors, whose results have seesawed day-by-day, likely because of minimal enforcement.

And now, five months into the vendor permitting system, we see a smattering of enforcement. Mission Local reports on the SFPD tweet above, which touts three people being arrested for selling stolen items at the corner of 16th and Mission Streets. According to SFPD, the operation resulted in “3 arrests & 2 truckloads of stolen property recovered. 2 of the suspects admitted the items were stolen.”

According to Mission Local’s reporting, “Public Works first confiscated inventory from the women a week earlier because they lacked any proof of having purchased the goods.” The site adds that “SFPD then received a tip that the women were again selling stolen goods, triggering an investigation by the SFPD Burglary Unit. The plainclothes officers were able to scan the QR codes of the goods for sale, revealing that the items had been stolen from Target.”

That seems like a pretty “Captain Obvious” method of determining which vendors are selling the stolen goods! So why haven’t we just been doing this all along?

“This was not initiated by a violation of the vending ordinance,” Supervisor Hillary Ronen’s legislative aide Santiago Lerma told Mission Local. “It was initiated by an independent [SFPD] unit that investigates retail theft.”

We can understand the philosophy of not wanting to over-police or over-criminalize street vending. But there’s good reason to believe there is organized crime involvement in retail theft, and we don’t want to just look the other way forever. Couldn’t Public Works employees have those QR or bar code scanners? And maybe just give warnings, so people selling shoplifted goods realize that someone  is on to them?

It does seem notable that these arrests were at 16th and Mission, and not at the 24th and Mission location that had drawn so much debate and controversy. So maybe the scene is moving geographically, or it may just be a sheer coincidence. Either way, it seems baffling if we’ve had these verification tools all along, and are just now starting to use them, and sparingly at best.

Related: SFPD Seizes $200,000 of Allegedly Stolen CVS and Walgreens-Looking Items From SF Man’s Home [SFist]

Image: @SFPDMission via Twitter