The LAPD and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department coordinated the largest raid ever on the Santee Alley downtown LA shopping district in late 2007, confiscating $8 million in counterfeit goods and arresting 26 people. Among the confiscated merchandise were designs copied from labels such as Prada, Rolex, Fendi and Gucci. The LAPD wants to send the message that selling counterfeit goods will no longer be tolerated.
The sales of counterfeit goods on the streets of Los Angeles presents a special problem in the city because, according to City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo, there is evidence that some of it is funding street gang activities. It is a lucrative alternative to other illegal activities, without the same level of danger or tough penalties. Some gangs, for example, charge "rent" to street merchants, or extort counterfeit merchandise from businesses to sell themselves. Consequently, according to Kris Buckner of Investigative Consultants, the involvement of gangs in the counterfeit market is making "law enforcement take a second look" at these types of crimes, as a means to disrupt gang activity.
Other countries have dealt with similar issues. The United Kingdom, for example, saw an explosion of funding for organized crime and international terrorism in 2004 from sales of counterfeit goods. To address this problem, U.K authorities hired 4,500 additional "copyright police" to increase the frequency of surprise raids, the level of intelligence, and criminal prosecutions to keep the "crimelords" off the street.
This growing connection between merchants of counterfeit goods and street gangs is putting pressure on local law enforcement to enforce the anti-counterfeit laws with more vigor. As enforcement improves, losses to legitimate designers and manufacturers caused by the sale of counterfeit goods in the city should decrease.