Proposed Bill Would Target SF's 'Chop Shops,' Confiscate Stolen Bikes

Photo: SF311/Twitter
By Carrie Sisto - Published on March 05, 2017.

District 8 Supervisor Jeff Sheehy has proposed new legislation that would give San Francisco police the authority to confiscate bicycles and bike parts from so-called "chop shops."

“If it's easy to sell a stolen bike, more bikes will be stolen,” Sheehy, who was appointed by Mayor Ed Lee in January to replace outgoing State Senator Scott Wiener, said in an emailed statement about the bill, which was introduced on February 28th.

The bill, which would amend the San Francisco Police Code (SFPC), aims to break the cycle of stolen bikes being sold easily on the street, by identifying the most common chop-shop locations and confiscating the bikes and parts on site.

The proposed bill says police could claim a location as a chop shop if it is on a street, sidewalk or similar public passageway, and includes five or more bicycles; bike frames with severed gear or brake cables; three or more bikes with missing parts; or five or more bicycle parts.

Enterprises that are operating under a valid business license would be exempt, as would anyone selling property that is their own, such as through a yard or estate sale. 

Currently, Sheehy says, the SFPD has “little recourse” to address instances in which someone appears to be selling stolen bikes. “I believe this ordinance will help.”

Photo: Sarey Beth/Flickr

Typically, someone violating the SF Police Code can be charged with a misdemeanor and fined. But Sheehy says the ordinance won't criminalize anyone who has their wares confiscated, instead giving them an "administrative citation"—no fines or criminal charges.  

Under the proposed bill, victims of bike theft may be able to reclaim their stolen items from SFPD, if they provide proof they are the lawful owner. The bill is pretty liberal on what counts as “proof"—it could be a serial number, a photo, a sales receipt, or even just a written letter describing the bike.

As the bill is currently written, people reclaiming their bikes may be charged a small fee, to cover the cost of SFPD locating, transporting and storing the bicycle.

"My first job here in San Francisco when I moved here in the early 1990s was as a bicycle messenger,” Sheehy said. “I barely scraped by, but my bicycle allowed me to survive." 

We inquired with the SF Bicycle Coalition for its thoughts on the proposed legislation, but a representative said the group is still reviewing it, and didn’t wish to comment at this time. 

The proposed bill has been assigned to the Land Use and Transportation Committee, but it can't be considered for approval for at least 30 days, under city law. We'll keep you posted if and when the proposal moves forward.

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