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Westchester Legislators Propose Law Regulating Secondhand Gems Dealers

Westchester County Executive George Latimer at the podium

Westchester County lawmakers are working to advance legislation to help law enforcement fight crime. The bill seeks to better monitor precious metals and gems sold at pawn shops.

Democratic Westchester County Executive George Latimer says laws regulating precious metals and gem dealers are in need of an update to keep pace with technology and law enforcement trends.

“The law enforcement community has identified an increase in crimes relating to stolen goods that coincides with the onset of the opioid and the heroin epidemic,” says Latimer. “Since secondhand dealers are often used to dispose of stolen goods, controls and regulations on that industry would assist in preventing the proliferation of stolen goods being sold for quick cash, which is then used to purchase drugs.”

The proposed bipartisan local law would require metal and gem dealers to not only maintain written records of their transactions, but to submit daily electronic records of each transaction. County Public Safety Commissioner Thomas Gleason:

“Right now it’s a challenge because the dealers are only required to maintain the property for 14 days before they can liquidate it,” Gleason says.. “And, often, by the time they complete the paper reports, get them to use, we collate them, enter them into an electronic system, and then send them out to a local law enforcement to compare against crimes in their jurisdictions, many times, the stolen goods were already disposed of.”

This proposal would make changes to the current version of the law regulating precious metal and gem dealers, which has not been otherwise updated since 1985. Jim Maisano is Director of Westchester’s Department of Consumer Protection:

“There were a lot of words missing from this law, like database, like Internet, like technology,” Maisano says.

He says an updated law is needed to better catch thieves.

“And the only way we can catch the thieves on the secondhand jewelry crimes is to update the technology to get the data transferred very quickly, so it can identify those items and get them back to the person that lost them before they’re sold and lost forever,” says Maisano.

Conservative Margaret Cunzio is chair of the county Board of Legislators’ Public Safety Committee and co-sponsor of the birtisan legislation.

“My cousin had her wedding band and engagement ring stolen after she gave birth to her third child. She wasn’t fitting into it. Somebody came in, broke into her home and took it,” Cunzio says. “And it’s not so much the value of those rings but the sentimental value. She’ll never have those back again. Watching what she went through, and watching how the process was so slow, is something that I think really hits home.”

Democratic co-sponsor and former assistant district attorney Kitley Covill:

“My grandmother had given a diamond that she had to each of her three grandchildren, and mine was taken. I have never forgotten it, but I will tell you this. The interesting thing is, as an ex-ADA, someone would some in, like me, and make a complaint, having gone to the detective bureau, whatever, and I’d hold my head in my hands because it is so antiquated, so much of this. And I’m hoping that Westchester will be, show them the way. And I will tell you my story briefly,” Covill says. “Came in, took everything, including this, this precious diamond that was actually a special kind of cut. So had there been an electronic, it would have come through right away as a miners cut, which is an unusual kind of cut, and had we had that electronic book come in, say, just got a miners cut diamond, it would have made that difference. We would have been able to get it.

County Police Chief John Hodges says the intention is to be able to collaborate electronically with surrounding police departments.

“This is what we’re looking at so that we can collaborate with the surrounding counties and New York City and New York state police. And that’s what we’re looking at now,” says Hodges. “So that’s going to be part of the decision of what software package we choose to use.”

The bill still has to make it out of the Public Safety committee, and there would be a public hearing. Latimer says he intends to sign it.

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