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Springfield Considers Moratorium On New Pawnshops

A pawn shop store front

Authorities in Springfield have begun a crackdown on pawnshops using a new ordinance put on the books just three months ago. The regulations are intended to help police recover goods stolen in house breaks throughout New England.

 Three stores lost their licenses and five businesses were assessed fines after Springfield police officers working undercover found violations of the city’s new pawnbroker ordinances.

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said the crackdown discovered what he called “a few bad apples” who he said were hindering police efforts to locate stolen property and return it to the rightful owners.

" We are very business friendly here, but it is not good business to have establishments that are aiding and abetting criminal activity."

Based on the police investigation the city declined earlier this month to renew the licenses for three pawnshops, and levied fines ranging from $300 to $900 on five more businesses. A decision on a sixth business is pending.

Mayor Sarno said one of the shops that lost a license had been receiving stolen property and advertising the items for sale online.

Police said the undercover operation was not a criminal investigation but was intended to determine compliance with the new regulations governing pawnshops and junk dealers that were put on the books in late February.

The new regulations require pawn brokers to hold second-hand jewelry and other used goods for at least 30 days. It replaced a required 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.

Pawn stores are also required to replace a handwritten log book of their inventory with a computerized record, including photographs.

Police Commissioner William Fitchet said the new regulations have modernized the system and are helping law enforcement.

" It is a fair ordinance. It does not overburden the business owner."

The pawnshop ordinance was first introduced in the city council in early 2013. It was referred several times to committee, and efforts to bring it to a final vote were blocked by procedural motions. Two councilors who were strong opponents of the regulations were defeated at last November’s election.

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

  City councilors are now looking at imposing a moratorium on new pawn shops, which Mayor Sarno indicated he would support.

" I would be very open to that. I think we have enough pawnshops. We have 23 now in the business, and that is more than enough in the city of Springfield"

A temporary halt on issuing new licenses for pawnshops in Springfield expired at the end of April.

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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