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Starbucks responds to rising crime by closing 16 stores

Other retail businesses are also confronting threats to customers’ and employees’ safety

Starbucks store location
Photo (c) Nils Versemann - Getty Images
Coffee retailer Starbucks, which is countering a growing unionization movement among its baristas, is now grappling with another problem: crime.

This week, company officials announced that they are closing 16 U.S. stores out of concern for the safety of its employees – referred to in the company as “partners.” Starbucks is permanently shuttering six stores each in Seattle and Los Angeles; two in Portland, Ore.; and single locations in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

In a message to employees, U.S. operations leads Debbie Stroud and Denise Nelson said the company is acting in response to reports of rising crimes in the vicinity of the targeted stores, as well as drug use and disruptions in the cafes themselves.

“We read every incident report you file—it’s a lot,” the executives wrote in their message. “We cannot serve as partners if we don’t first feel safe at work.” 

The company may go even further. According to the New York Post, Starbucks will provide employees with active shooter training. 

The Post reported that in April, a woman in Richardson, Texas, was arrested in the shooting death of her child’s grandmother inside a Starbucks. In 2021, a man was shot to death while sitting in the drive-thru lane at a Starbucks in Los Angeles.

Other businesses under pressure

Starbucks is not the only retail business with employees who increasingly find themselves in harm’s way. TV news viewers have been shocked to see surveillance footage of shoplifters engaging in what appear to be organized “smash and grab” operations at high-end jewelry and apparel stores.

Last month, the San Francisco Police Department reported that 10 different smash and grab retail thefts occurred between March 18 and April 10 at locations that spanned six different police districts in the city. Multiple locations were targeted more than once.

In one of those crimes, the department said a customer was assaulted when he confronted one of the suspects. Employees have also been injured when trying to intervene. 

Kim Cordova, a union grocery workers union president in Colorado, recently told the New York Times that worker safety is now as important as economic issues in contract negotiations.

“People have changed,” she told the Times. “Sometimes I wonder if I am living in a Netflix movie. This can’t be real.”

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