NYC debates fining tourists for buying counterfeit items on city sidewalks

Katie LaPotin, Red Alert Politics, June 14, 2013

Buying a “Prado” bag from a street vendor on Canal Street in Manhattan could set you back just as much as if you bought the real thing if the City Council has anything to do with it.

A bill currently under consideration by the New York City Council would fine anyone – including tourists – caught buying knockoff merchandise items as much as $1,000 or send them to prison for up to a year.

“The bill targets those who purchase goods which they should know are counterfeit, based on the cost or quality of the item or the conditions and location of the seller or sale,” according to a press release issued by the bill’s sponsor, Democratic Council member Margaret Chin.

According to Chin, the bill’s sponsor, the city loses more than $1 billion in tax revenue annually as a result of counterfeit purchases.

“For tourists, it’s fun, it’s a bit of adventure,” Chin told the Associated Press. “We have to let people know that if you engage in this activity you are committing a crime,” adding in for good measure that the counterfeit trade has been linked to child labor and the funding of organized crime and terrorist groups.

The city has tried to cut down on street vendors selling counterfeit items for years, however even those responsible for catching those who sell knockoffs doubt the bill will be effective in stopping the process.

“While we share the Council’s frustration with consumers’ misguided support of criminal enterprise, we are unable to agree with the approach taken by the bill,” Kathleen McGee, director of the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement, told the New York Daily News.

Tourists – and prospective buyers – don’t seem too worried about the potential new law either.

“If I can buy it for $50, I will, real or fake,” Melissa Kirkpatrick, a tourist from Salt Lake City, Utah, told the Associated Press.

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