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Boro shops cited by city for box cutter sales

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Three Queens stores have been cited as repeated violators of the law against selling box cutters to minors, the city Department of Consumer Affairs reported following inspections by undercover teenagers.

Consumer Affairs Commissioner Jane Steiner Hoffman appeared with Mayor Rudolph Giuliani Tuesday to release results of the sting operation on sales of both box cutters and laser pointers.

“This summer the Department of Consumer Affairs stepped up its investigation and conducted the largest box cutter and laser pointer sweep ever,” Giuliani said. “With students around the city preparing for the new school year, we want to ensure that dangerous items, such as box cutters and laser pointers are kept out of our schools, off the streets and out of the hands of minors.”

Hoffman said her agency issued 107 citations with a potential $37,350 in fines.

“The illegal sale of these potential hazards has significantly decreased since last year,” she said, adding that compliance with the laws against sale of both items was 73 percent last year and 82 percent this year.

Between July 23 and Aug. 30, nine undercover teenagers working with Consumer Department inspectors attempted to buy box cutters at hardware, building supply and discount stores citywide.

It has been illegal to sell box cutters to minors since 1995 and illegal to sell laser pointers to minors since 1998.

The Consumer Affairs Department listed as “recidivist violators” Home Depot at 112-20 Rockaway Blvd., GC Stationery Inc. at 81-10 37th Ave. and A&R Variety Store Inc. at 78-05 Jamaica Ave., all in Queens, for what the agency said were repeated sales of box cutters to minors.

Gregg Patel, manager of GC Stationery, said “it was a mistake caused by confusion over the ID of the buyer.”

John Simley, a spokesman for Home Depot’s corporate headquarters outside Atlanta, said in a published report the sale in the South Ozone Park store was an isolated instance of such a transaction. He said such items are supposed to be locked up.

The manager of A&R Variety did not respond to a request for comment.

Box cutters, intended for opening boxes, have a razor-like blade which can be used as a weapon. Laser pointers project a strong beam and are meant to pinpoint areas on blackboards or displays during lectures. The light from them is strong enough to damage eyes.

The Department of Consumer Affairs conducted 24 inspections in Queens and found six sales to minors for a compliance rate of 75 percent.

Only Brooklyn and Staten Island had worse compliance rates, both at 73 percent. Manhattan had a 97 percent compliance rate and the Bronx 89 percent.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 136.

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