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Rockford Register Star

New Web system for Rockford pawnshops leads to arrests

Brokers, secondhand dealers and salvage yards are required to use online database

By Matt Williams

April 9, 2010

ROCKFORD – Rockford police say they are already finding success in a new Web-based system that monitors pawnshop transactions.

Detective Bob Redmond said police have made arrests linked to commercial, residential and vehicle burglaries based on information provided to them by LeadsOnline, an online database that collects information from area pawn brokers, secondhand dealers and salvage yards.

"We have made several arrests based on the information that has been provided to us and actually are on our way to solving some burglaries in the Wisconsin area," Redmond said.

Grant covers costs

As of Feb. 1, the City Council made it mandatory for all pawn brokers and secondhand dealers to register for LeadsOnline.

The Police Department purchased the service through a four-year grant, while it is free for business owners.

The old system required businesses to fax over handwritten transaction forms to law enforcement agencies. A single pawnshop's transactions could fill an entire binder in six to eight weeks.

"You basically had to go page by page and line by line," Deputy Chief Greg Lindmark said. "It is thousands and thousands of pages each year. It was tedious, antiquated work.

"I'm not sure we would have made some (of these arrests) because it is so time-consuming to go through all the pages."

Search capabilities

Redmond said the database not only allows police to make itemized searches by serial number, but they can monitor activity of individuals police have come across in the past.

"We have certain targets of people who we know have been involved in some activity, and we can watch their names to see if they are coming up," Redmond said.

"It's like: How did we get along without it? I wish we would have done this years ago."

Bob Vandiver, co-owner of Paymaster Pawn & Jewelers, 1103 Seventh St., is still not completely convinced of the new system's merits.

Vandiver said it has been easier for him to submit the information, but he worries that customer information is vulnerable by being sent online.

Vandiver said the Truth in Lending Act prevents him from sending client information to third-party agencies.

"We still think it is a liability," Vandiver said. "That concern will always be there, but we will address that if it ever comes up."

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