Today’s news:

Undercover Queens teens get box cutters

Teenage volunteer undercover agents working for the Consumer Affairs Department were able to make illegal purchases of box cutters at seven Queens stores, including a Home Depot and a Sears, the city agency said.

Consumer Affairs Commissioner Jane Hoffman said the investigators, during an eight-day period last month, attempted to buy box cutters at 59 stores in the five boroughs and found that 27 percent of them made illegal sales, an improvement over the 59 percent a year ago.

"This campaign will end only when every store stops selling box cutters to minors," Hoffman said. Selling a box cutter to anyone under 21 is punishable by a fine from $350 for a first offense to $500 for repeat offenses.

Hoffman said that in the case of persistent violators, the city might turn to civil lawsuits against such retail establishments.

The investigation, conducted by eight volunteer youths ages 15 and 16, checked 16 stores in Queens and were sold box cutters in seven locations for a 44 percent illegal sales record, the survey found.

Citywide, Manhattan had the best record with no sales at any of the 11 stores investigated. The worst was Staten Island where five of the 10 stores checked sold the teenage task force box cutters.

The Queens locations where the Consumer Affairs agency said illegal sales were made include a Home Depot on Rockaway Blvd.; a Sears store in Elmhurst, two hardware stores on Junction Boulevard in Jackson Heights, a discount store on Northern Boulevard in Jackson Heights, and two stores on Fresh Pond Road in Ridgewood.

Box cutters, which feature a razor-like steel blade and are used to rapidly open cardboard boxes of newly shipped merchandise in retail stockrooms, have largely replaced knives as weapons by youth gangs and many slashing assaults have been caused by those wielding such devices.

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