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Downtown residents largely agree that sellers of counterfeit trademark goods should be penalized. Whether or not purchasers should be thrown into jail, however, is up for debate.
District One Councilmember Margaret Chin’s proposed legislation to fine and/or imprison buyers of counterfeit perfumes, watches, CDs and other counterfeit items prompted a divisive discussion among community members at the May 24 Community Board 1 full-board meeting.
C.B. 1 board members voted 22 in favor, 13 opposed, and 1 abstention, on a resolution endorsing the law, which could make the purchase of counterfeit goods a misdemeanor punishable of up to one year in prison and/or a fine of up to $1,000. The illicit business has lead to a loss of more than $1 billion in municipal tax revenue, according to Chin, and is tied to child labor abuse, drug trafficking and other forms of organized crime.
“The sale of counterfeit goods has been a serious issue over many years for the neighborhoods bordering Canal Street, and has been accompanied by threatening behavior towards the physical assault of local residents and police officers by vendors [and] a proliferation in other criminal activity in the area,” the resolution states.
The illegal trade, the resolution continues, also impedes pedestrian traffic on sidewalks and crosswalks, blocks access to buildings and exacerbates unsanitary conditions.
Community Board member Jeff Galloway, and others, spoke out against the law.
“I don’t believe in criminalizing behavior of otherwise law-abiding citizens unless it’s the last resort,” said Galloway. “Making tourists and others criminals in the service of protecting the Gucci trademark seems to be not the wisest use of our law enforcement techniques, or good public policy.”