Paying the price to pawn products
The county board executive committee Monday placed on hold for a month a proposed ordinance that would require pawnbrokers and used jewelry dealers to provide law enforcement with digital photos of items that do not have serial numbers.
The ordinance also would require pawnbrokers and dealers to electronically transmit daily logs to law enforcement. Failure to report would activate a $10 late fee until the error is corrected.
Businesses that do not have 200 transactions in a calendar year would not be required to follow the reporting requirement.
Walworth County Sheriff's Capt. Dana Nigbor told committee members that stolen articles "are showing up at local establishments. There's no way of tracking where the items came from."
Nigbor stressed that communication between secondhand dealers and law enforcement is good, but she wants a stepped-up tracking system in place.
Committee members raised concerns about too much regulation on the businesses, and they questioned how far regulations would extend, such as book and clothing stores and fairs.
Lee Cowley, co-owner of Delavan Gold & Diamond Exchange in downtown Delavan, compared the proposal to something that comes out of the backside of a horse.
He said pawnshops and secondhand stores already cooperate with police, and an expensive tracking system wouldn't help solve more crimes.
"I only make maybe 20 percent when all is figured, and my partner and I have to pull two incomes from that," Cowley said. "If I have to hire someone to take pictures and add to my overhead, I'm out of business."
Cowley said that in the year and a half he's been in business, he and his partner have never purchased any stolen merchandise. Cowley said police stay away from his store because they know there's no stolen merchandise there.
"It keeps the cops off of our backs," he said.
Cowley said he and his partner have been associated with the pawn business long enough to sense when someone is trying to sell stolen merchandise. Cowley said that the payday loan industry, not pawnshops, require additional regulation.
"I do everything I can to cooperate with the cops when they let me know ahead of time that they're looking for something," Cowley said. "I'll play the game to help them catch a thief."