(BCN) — California law criminalizes selling any product that obscures the reading of a license plate, yet people can still buy them online. On Wednesday, San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu sent a letter to the executives at Amazon, eBay, Etsy and Walmart demanding that they cease and desist from offering illegal license plate covers for sale to California residents.
Chui said that license plate covers, such as smoked, vinyl wraps, tinted or warped covers, make it difficult to read plate numbers and impede the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and apprehend individuals engaged in criminal activities, such as sideshows, thefts, and robberies.
“Amazon is aware that these license plate covers are illegal and being used to facilitate illegal conduct and evade law enforcement,” one of the letters said.
The timing for the crackdown coincides with Assembly Bill 645, a new law approved by the governor Oct. 13 that authorizes a handful of California cities, including San Francisco, to establish automated speed systems for a pilot period ending Jan. 1, 2032. Speed cameras can be installed and automatically flag reckless drivers for warnings and citations.
Opponents of the new law raised concerns about driver privacy. They cautioned that people of color and low-income neighborhoods would be more negatively impacted than other areas.
But San Francisco police, ramping efforts to stop smash-and-grab retail theft and car break-ins, say that keeping license plates clearly visible for security cameras and eyewitnesses is an important way to track suspects.
“These illegal license plate covers serve no other purpose but to enable criminal activity and assist individuals in evading law enforcement,” said San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott.
The letters sent by the city attorney detail the marketing of one type of electronic plate cover with a remote-controlled drop-down curtain that can be operated from inside the vehicle.
“A user boasts that it ‘works well for running from cops,’ while another reviewer notes that they have ‘gotten out of a lot of tickets.’ One ad for an electronic license plate cover is described as hiding a license plate in ‘just 1.5 seconds’ to ‘meet your urgent needs,'” the letters say.
Amazon and the city of New York recently announced that these products would no longer be available to New York City residents for the same reasons cited in San Francisco’s letters, Chiu’s statement said.
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