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City Councilwoman Seeks Crackdown On Counterfeit Handbag Buyers

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) --Shoppers around the world flock to Canal Street for a great deal on fancy-looking handbags that are both cheap and fake.

But as CBS 2's Steve Langford reported, but a City Councilwoman would like to see that change -- and she is targeting the buyers.

"We want to sort of cut down on the demand," said Councilwoman Margaret Chin (D-1st).

Chin said Sunday that she plans to introduce a bill that would slap a $1,000 fine on both the sellers and people caught buying the fake Chanel and Prada bags. Violators could also face a year in jail.

While selling the counterfeit handbags has always been illegal, there has been no legislation targeting buyers, Chin said.

"We see the transactions happening in the street in our community, and this has got to stop," Chin said. "and it's really a tool for the police officers, because when they see it happening, they can give a summons or arrest, you know, people who buy these things."

Chin's district includes Chinatown, which she said should not be the go-to place for counterfeit designer products.

"This business is illegal. It supports a lot of violence, you know, gangs. It also exploit workers," Chin said.

Currently, even tour guides and buses direct visitors to the area to get the goods, Chin told 1010 WINS.

Attorney Joseph Gioconda said those who buy the counterfeit bags know exactly what they are doing.

"A person buying this bag just looks at it from two feet away and says, 'Oh yeah, that's a nice $50 counterfeit handbag," he said.

Gioconda represents a number of high-end designers, and said a crackdown is needed.

"It's often seen perceived by the system as a relatively victimless crime. Of course, it's not," Gioconda said. "It costs the city and the country billions of dollars both in tax revenue and in legitimate sales, and it is a black market."

On Canal Street Sunday, some shoppers were wary about talk of a fashion crime.

"I don't think that's a good punishment for wanting to be fashionable and all that stuff. I think that's a little overboard, taking it to, 'You're going to get jail time,' and all of that," one woman said.

"Well, if it was illegal, then I would not do it," another woman said.

"Up until 2001, that was my business," a man said. "And it's too late to get in trouble, so I can say it."

Of course, a lot of the knock-off business has moved online where it may be tougher to enforce any penalties against shoppers.

Do you think a crackdown on counterfeit handbag sales is needed? Leave your comments below...

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