Pawn shop owners outraged over proposed Williamsburg ordinance
The Williamsburg City Council was prepared to pass the second reading of its pawnshop ordinance, but council members agreed to table the matter until July after area pawn shop owners and employees expressed outrage about provisions requiring working security cameras inside the stores and that they keep written records of who purchased what items from the store.
"We should not have to take ID to sell something," said James Gregg Jr. of Fast Cash on U.S. 25W, adding that the items they make available for sale have been in the store at least 90 days.
The owners told the council that should be sufficient time for the items to be reported stolen and police to check with them to see if the item has been brought into one of their stores.
"If we knew it was stolen, we wouldn't take it," Gregg told the council.
Williamsburg Police Chief Wayne Bird said that pawnshops are only required to keep items for 90 days if they have been taken as collateral for a loan. Items sold outright to the pawnshop may be made available for re-sale, immediately, meaning they could be in and out of the pawnshop in little or no time.
"We have had problems in the past with people who say they have found their stolen merchandise at the pawn shop," Bird said. "When they returned with the police, the merchandise gone. We don't want thieves to have a ready location to turn property into cash."
Bird acknowledged there have been several complaints that police have taken stolen items from area pawnshops without due process, telling the owners to take out a warrant in an effort to recover their losses.
"There is no due process to keep stolen property in Kentucky," Commonwealth's Attorney Allen Trimble said. "That is the law in Tennessee."
Bird added if the pawnshop owners have tickets to show whom the stolen item was bought from; it not only aids law enforcement in the investigation, but also aids the pawnshop owner in recovering any money when the case goes to court.
"If we can include those tickets in the case file when we give it to the commonwealth's attorney, he can request that the court order the offender make restitution to the pawn shop," Bird said.
Opal Mardis, of Diamond Jim's Pawn Shop, said the pawn shops in London send a report to the London Police every day listing the items the shop has bought or taken as collateral so police can determine if any of it has been reported stolen.
Bird said Kentucky law requires pawnshop owners to do that. On a shelf in his office, Bird has packs of forms he plans to provide to pawn shop owners to collect information about items including serial numbers.
"If you have seen the History Channel television show, 'Pawn Stars,' you repeatedly hear them saying, 'Let's go do some paperwork,'" Bird said. "That is the kind of paperwork they are doing."
The owners repeatedly asked the council why pawn shops were being singled out in being required to ask a customer for identification, noting individuals who sell similar items at flea markets or yard sales are not subject to the ordinance.
In addition, the owners noted individuals who set up shop at area hotels for several days to buy jewelry and scrap gold and silver are not subject to it..
Harrison replied that with the exception of the tenants requiring the video camera and that the pawnshops enter inventory items into the Leads Online computer system, the ordinance only reinforces state laws.
"We are putting some teeth into the law," Harrison said previously.
As to the video cameras, the owners said it hampers their business as some of their customers, especially those bringing items to pawn, don't want to be seen.
"I have met people in the parking lot here because they don't want to be seen going into a pawnshop," Gregg said.
Trimble said for more than 25 years, other businesses, such as banks, have used video surveillance. With improved technology, Trimble said there are few, if any stores that don't have some type of video surveillance.
"Video cameras have become just a fact of life when you go into a store," Trimble said.
At the urging of Harrison, the council agreed to table the second reading of the ordinance pending a meeting between Williamsburg Police Chief Wayne Bird, Trimble and the pawnshop owners.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Bird said he had not heard from Harrison as to when or where the meeting will take place.
The council is scheduled to meet in regular session on July 12.
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