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Chinatown vendors say cops harass them

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NEW YORK (MYFOXNY) -

Many legal street vendors in Chinatown say the cops are giving them a hard time. They say they have been arrested on minor violations.

Yueying Wong sells bamboo plants on a tiny stand on Canal Street in Chinatown. Police arrested the licensed vendor in April when she sold a bamboo plant and included a plastic flower and free plant food. She said he heart hurts from the experience.

Chun Yin works a nearby vendor stand with her invalid husband Chi Fei Chang. Only Chang has a vendor license. His wife has been arrested 11 times for working their stand -- the only income for the couple and their 9- and 11-year-old sons. She has been handcuffed and jailed overnight 5 times. Since 2007, they and then-City Councilman Alan Gerson wrote letters to the Department of Consumer Affairs requesting a license transfer to Yin. The department has no record of the letters.

Yin says she cannot depend on the government for support so she must do what she has to for her family.

Frankie and Tam Feng both have vendor licenses for their Chinatown fruit stand. On Chinese New Year, she was arrested for selling traditional New Year's flowers, as they have for 15 years. Frankie believes police are targeting legal Chinatown vendors because they cannot catch the mobile counterfeiters selling illegal bags on Canal Street.

The police arresting the vendors are from the Quality of Life Unit housed in Tribeca. Quality of Life has been credited with dropping the crime rate in New York because people who would hop a subway turnstile often had criminal records. But these vendors did not have criminal records until now.

Community activist Don Lee is organizing the vendors who have demonstrated before Community Board 2. He said the cops are targeting vendors for questionable issues.

Attorney Julia Kuan is considering a class action lawsuit against the police and Manhattan district attorney. She said the vendors often don't speak English well and also don't understand the justice system and are afraid of it.

We did not get a comment from the NYPD when this story was broadcast.

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