New federal law cracks down on online sale of stolen items. Will it help San Francisco?

ByTim Johns KGO logo
Wednesday, June 28, 2023
New federal law cracks down on sale of stolen items. Will it help SF?
A new federal law attempting to crack down on the online sale of stolen goods went into effect, but experts weigh in on if it will help San Francisco.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- As retail theft continues to be a major concern across the Bay Area, help could be on the way.

INTERACTIVE: Take a look at the ABC7 Neighborhood Safety Tracker

On Tuesday, a new federal law attempting to crack down on the online sale of stolen goods went into effect.

"They're trying to suffocate the supply chain here. Basically, the whole chain of the theft by going after the outlet, the illegal outlet," said Professor Ahmed Banafa, a tech expert at San Jose State University.

The law would require online marketplace websites, like Amazon and Etsy, to collect and disclose information about some third-party sellers.

MORE: Popular SF street vending spot deserted on 1st day of permit enforcement

Specifically, sellers who had more than 200 sales amounting to over $5,000 or more in a year.

Banafa says with the growth in the fencing of stolen items online, he wishes penalties for those caught were harsher.

"It's a $50 to $120 per violation according to the FTC. That is low," Banafa said.

That's a view that's shared by others too.

"I think it's going to be a very small step in the right direction. It's going to slow down some of the sales, but they'll always find a way around it," said Matt Ross, the spokesperson for Californians Against Retail and Residential Theft.

MORE: Top DHS official warns of 'absolute threat' to public safety, economy from organized retail crime

Federal authorities are sounding the alarm over coordinated robberies as retailers say this type of crime is reaching unprecedented levels.

He says this law by itself won't be enough to stop retail theft in places like San Francisco.

"Get more law enforcement on the streets, start looking at the sentencing that we're doing right now for these types of crimes, and let's start turning those things around," Ross said.

Ross worries that without more action, the problem could get worse.

That's why his group is working with businesses up and down the state.

"They're not only worried about their losses in the store, what they're really worried about is potential threats to their employees and to their customers. We never know when one of these incidences, when someone is walking out with a bag, may turn violent," Ross said.

Now Streaming 24/7 Click Here

If you're on the ABC7 News app, click here to watch live