SAN FRANCISCO — Family-run small business Cigarettes R Cheaper suffered the biggest slump in its long history in San Francisco last month.
Surveillance video shows two cars parked outside the Richmond smokehouse during the night hours of May 31. A thief tries to break the glass with a tool before others finally crowd into the shop. Some burglars were already carrying empty pockets.
Once inside, the thieves clear out the shelves and toss whatever they could get their hands on in a trash can and what appears to be a bed sheet.
In about 15 minutes, the criminals stole 500 packs of cigarettes worth $80,000. They also stole the safe containing $20,000 in cash.
They left a lot of damage.
“So many businesses are going out of business or moving out of town because of this, it’s not safe, you know? Nobody feels safe. I don’t even feel safe here anymore,” said store manager Sunny Shakoor. “I don’t know what’s going to happen next. Even during the day they can rob me, they can do anything.”
Shakoor said the family opened the Geary Boulevard location about 30 years ago. They too were hit by burglars last year. He believes crime is increasing in the neighborhood.
“Because every day I hear that something is happening in this neighborhood. They break into houses because a policeman came here two days before. The police told me they were looking for two cars, seven to eight men,” Shakoor said. “Same group. He said that.”
Shakoor says thieves also broke into a doctor’s office next door that same night.
He said his family came to the US from Afghanistan to seek a better life.
“We come from far away to work and live here – $100,000 isn’t easy to pay,” he added.
Shakoor said the thieves stole something that gives the store about a quarter of the year’s revenue.
Since the last burglary, the family has spent thousands of dollars replacing windows and installing new gates behind the glass.
“I just want the government, the City of San Francisco, to pay more attention to businesses — the safety of people, businesses, homes, etc. — because we’re the taxpayer, you know?” Shakoor said.