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Stronger Regulations Put On Pawn Shops

A pawn shop store front

       Stronger regulations are being put on pawn shops and junk dealers in the city of Springfield, Massachusetts in an effort to help police investigations into house breaks and stolen goods. Police say the new rules should help people throughout New England eventually recover stolen expensive jewelry and family heirlooms.

       An ordinance given final approval this week by the Springfield City Council puts a longer holding period on second-hand goods before a store can sell them. It also requires shop owners to keep a detailed computerized record, including photographs, of the store’s inventory that will be in a database that can be accessed by police throughout the region.

       Councilor Tom Ashe,chairman of the Public Safety Committee who sponsored the ordinance, called it a common sense tool that allows the police to do their job.

       The new regulations require pawn brokers and junk dealers to hold second-hand jewelry and other used goods for at least 30 days. This replaces the current requirement for a 10-day hold that police said was not enough time to investigate house breaks and track down and recover stolen items before the merchandise is sold.

       The ordinance also requires shop owners to replace a handwritten log book of their inventory, which police said was often illegible and incomplete, with a detailed computerized record.

       Springfield Police Commissioner William Fitchet said the new regulations will modernize the system and help police find and recover stolen goods.

    " It is a fair ordinance that does not overburden the business owners. We just ask them to use technology with the Springfield police to come into the 21st century."

       But some store owners complained the new regulations will impose a hardship on their business. They also argued that making the computerized records widely available to police departments will invade the privacy of people pawning or selling jewelry and personal property.

      Ashe said access to the information will be closely guarded by the police.

       " Any of these reputable businesses have video surveillance, so customers are being photographed, so the invasion of privacy argument dos not t carry any water."

       The ordinance was first introduced in the council almost a year ago.  It was referred several times to committee, and efforts to bring it to a final vote were blocked by procedural motions.  The ordinance that passed 11-2 this week had changed very little from what was originally proposed.

       City Council President Mike Fenton said the election last November resulted in the defeat of two councilors, including former Council President James Ferrera, who were strong opponents of the regulations.

        " Democracy works."

               The ordinance was endorsed by several civic groups and neighborhood crime watch organizations.

       A spokesman for Mayor Domenic Sarno said the mayor plans to sign the ordinance when it reaches his desk.   It would take effect 20 days after the mayor signs it.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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