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Bill would stiffen penalties for stealing devices from people with disabilities

Roxanne Drayton, 60, of Coram, with her sons

Roxanne Drayton, 60, of Coram, with her sons Todd Drayton, center, 28, and Darell, 25, at Generation Kia in Bohemia on Dec. 9. Todd Drayton's wheelchair was inside the family's van when it was stolen in November. Credit: Joe Catalanotto, Generation Kia

ALBANY — Stealing a wheelchair shouldn’t just be reprehensible, but a serious crime, several Long Island legislators said Tuesday as they proposed a bill to do just that.

The bill would elevate the crime of theft when it involves medical equipment used by people with disabilities, such as walkers, oxygen tanks and wheelchairs.

The proposed Todd’s Law is inspired by the case of Todd Drayton, 28, who suffers from several disabilities. His special wheelchair, valued at $8,000, was inside his family’s 20-year-old van when it was stolen last month from their Coram driveway. The engine was running as Drayton’s mother, Roxanne, was preparing to pick up her son from Stony Brook Hospital.

Neither the van nor the wheelchair have been recovered, but this month a local car dealership provided the family with a new van and another company donated a wheelchair to them.

“Todd’s Law will be a good step in the right direction to enhance the crime of stealing medical equipment needed for individuals with disabilities,” said Assemb. Doug Smith (R-Holbrook) on Tuesday. “The community has done their part; now it’s our turn to take action.”

The law would raise the seriousness of the crime by one level if the theft involved medical equipment needed by a disabled person. A higher level of a crime could potentially carry stiffer penalties.

The Long Island Republican conference in the Assembly will push the law in the session beginning Jan. 1. There is no sponsor yet from the Assembly’s Democratic majority, usually required to get a bill to the floor.

“As state legislators it is incumbent upon us to protect the people of our state who are our must vulnerable,” said Assemb.-elect Joe DeStefano (R-Medford). There is no comparable bill yet in the state Senate.

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