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Three-Year Extension Of Springfield Pawn Shop Moratorium Appears Likely

A pawn shop store front

The city council in Springfield, Massachusetts has voted to extend a moratorium on new pawn shops for an additional three years.

City Councilor Tom Ashe, chairman of the Public Safety Committee, asked the council to extend the moratorium on licensing new pawn shops and secondhand stores to June 30, 2019. Ashe held several hearings across the city during the past six months and said he found not one person who was against extending the moratorium.

" I have not heard,on any occasion, any group saying we could use more pawn shops," said Ashe.

The council gave first-step approval Monday night to the ordinance extending the pawn shop moratorium for another three years. Final approval is expected at the June 27th council meeting.

Springfield Police Commissioner John Barbieri said the 42 pawn shops and junk dealers currently licensed in the city is a manageable number for police to keep tabs on.

" If you have an item stolen, you want the police department  to have a fair shot to make the rounds to all the secondhand junk dealers and pawn shops to make every effort to try to recover your property," said Barbieri.

He urged the council to extend the moratorium on new pawn shops for three years. He said the MGM casino, which is scheduled to open in September 2018, could be a magnet for pawn shop operators.

" If you look at other casino cities, generally there are business people who like to open used car lots and pawn shops because it is a quick way for people to get cash, if they have a gambling addiction. The city has to be concerned about people who are addicted and we have to very careful about the people we grant licenses to," said the police commissioner.

In addition to putting a temporary ban on new stores in 2014, the city council put tougher regulations on pawn shops and secondhand stores. Used goods must be held for 30 days before being put up for sale.  The stores were required to replace handwritten log books of their inventory with a computerized record including photographs of jewelry.

After the new rules took effect, police conducted stings at several shops. As a result of the investigations, licenses for three pawn shops were revoked and fines were levied against five more stores.

" It seems as though the pawn shops are very cooperative ( now). We have not seen the shenanigans we saw in the past," said Barbieri.  " We are happy with the ( pawn shops) we currently have."

In a report to the city council’s Public Safety Committee, Springfield police detailed more than a dozen cases where jewelry, electronics, and other property stolen from residences throughout western Massachusetts were recovered from pawn shops.

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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