A city supervisor angered by the widespread use of telephone pagers by youthful drug dealers has introduced legislation making possession of the high-tech gadgets illegal for minors.
San Francisco Supervisor Jim Gonzalez said that while some teens regard pagers solely as a useless fashion accessory and others rely on them as a legitimate link with working parents, the vast majority favor the devices for use in the urban drug trade."The crack epidemic isn't over - that's the overwhelming fact in all of this," Gonzalez said Tuesday. "Street-corner drug marketplaces are still going on, and a lot of them depend on the use of pay phones and beepers to carry out their trade."
In an attempt to curb the flow of drug transactions, Gonzalez's legislation would - if approved - make it illegal to both sell a pager to a minor as well as for youths under 18 to possess one.
Under the law, a minor's pager could be confiscated outright unless he or she could provide police or school officials with a waiver form stating the beeper was being used for legitimate purposes.
A second offense could mean a $100 fine, Gonzalez said.
The supervisor said he regarded introduction of his legislation as a "trial balloon."
If students could argue successfully that they needed a pager because of their part in a family owned business or out of desire to maintain contact with an ailing family member, a waiver could be drafted exempting them from confiscation, the supervisor said.
Gonzalez was moved to draft the law after meeting with residents who complained about the effects of round-the-clock crack dealing - most of it conducted by young men with pagers or cellular phones.
At least one local school official expressed doubt over the effectiveness of an outright ban on beepers.
"I think we might be overreacting to something," said McAteer High School Vice Principal Louis Garrett, whose district banned the wearing of beepers on campus last year.
Garrett also expressed fear that many senior-level students with legitimate "on call" jobs requiring them to wear pagers might be the objects of unwarranted search and seizure by police.