July 13, 2017

Anti-Chop-Shop Bill Opposed by Homeless Advocates

More bike theft news out of San Francisco: Controversial legislation aimed at cracking down on "chop shops" passed the Board of Supervisors Land Use Committee on Monday.

"Countless bicycles are stolen in San Francisco every year, at great cost to local residents, and taken to open-air 'chop shops' in San Francisco where they are disassembled, stripped of identifying information, and/or sold," reads Supervisor Jeff Sheehy's bill. 

"Prohibiting the operation of chop shops, and allowing the Police Department (SFPD) to seize any bicycles or bicycle parts from persons who operate chop shops, will help SFPD hold chop shop operators accountable and will help restore stolen bicycles to their rightful owners. Prohibiting chop shops will also clear the public rights-of way and improve the quality of life for City residents." 

But what is a chop shop exactly? The legislation commendably does not cop a we-know-it-when-we-see-it, instead specifying precise behaviors to be prohibited. If you're outside on public property—on a sidewalk, say, or under a bridge—and assembling, disassembling, selling, offering to sell, or offering to distribute five or more bicycles or bicycle parts, three or more bicycles with missing parts, or a bicycle frame with cut cables, Sheehy's bill authorizes San Francisco police to not only seize your wares but also issue you an administrative citation.

Exceptions written into the legislation ensure that neither those with valid business licenses nor folks holding yard sales would run afoul of the new law, but the bill met opposition from homeless advocacy groups, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, and the Democratic Socialists of America: San Francisco. Opponents of the measure contend that it will target the city's homeless population without seriously combatting the bike theft scourge.

"Bicycle theft is a real problem in the City and County of San Francisco and I am happy to hear that this is being discussed in this chamber," said San Francisco Bicycle Coalition executive director Brian Wiedenmeier. "If the legislation could be amended to target those who buy and sell in stolen property that would be an ordinance that the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition could enthusiastically support, but right now we are not there yet."

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