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Ban proposed on SF bicycle ‘chop shops’

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Officer Matt Friedman checks known hot spots for bike chop shops in San Francisco from under the overpass at the Octavia extension to the lawn area next to the main branch of the San Francisco Library. (Mike Koozmin/2014 S.F. Examiner)

San Francisco police may start cracking down on stolen bicycle rings by targeting chop shops spotted around town.

Supervisor Jeff Sheehy introduced legislation Tuesday that prohibits the operation of chop shops and authorizes the police “to seize any bicycles or bicycle parts from persons who operate chop shops.”

“We have seen the chop shops all around town where piles of bicycles and bicycle parts are stacked along our public rights of way,” Sheehy said when introducing the legislation. “Many of these bicycles are stolen. Very often these bicycles are stolen from young people, people who rely on bicycles as a means to get to and from work. The loss of a bicycle could mean a choice between being able to pay rent or buy a new bike.”

The legislation prohibits assembling, disassembling, selling or distributing on public property bicycle parts if the operation includes five or more bicycles, a bicycle frame with gear cables or brake cables cut, three or more bicycles with missing parts such as handlebars, wheels, forks or pedals, or five or more bicycle parts.

If a police officer comes upon a chop shop operation, the officer would be empowered to write a citation, similar to a parking ticket, and seize the items in violation of the law.

“Right now the police do not have clear authority to address chop shops,” Sheehy said. He also emphasized that he didn’t want the proposal to “criminalize our most vulnerable.”

“This does not allow people to be thrown in jail but allows police to pick up the parts and make sure that the bikes get back to the rightful owners,” Sheehy said.

If the items are seized, the officer would have to provide the date and location of the observed violation on the citation along with a description of the items, how they can be recovered and the appeal process.

A person who has their items seized can retrieve the items if they can prove they are the rightful owner of them. “A person shall be deemed the ‘rightful owner’ if the person can demonstrate with sufficient reliability that he or she is the lawful owner of the seize item, for example, by providing video or photographic evidence indicating ownership of the seized item, by producing a bill of sale, by correctly stating the serial number, or by signing a sworn affidavit in person at an SFPD location,” the legislation said.

The police could assess an impound fee of the items. An appeal of the citation must be filed within 15 days.

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