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Surprise (Ariz.) PD looks to track stolen property with help from businesses

New Surprise pawnshop rule mulled to track stolen goods

By D.S. Woodfill

July 18, 2011

The Surprise Police Department is proposing an ordinance to help officers track secondhand sales of stolen property.

The aim is to make it harder for thieves to sell stolen goods to pawnshops or dealers of secondhand merchandise, while helping police recover property and put more criminals in jail.

The ordinance is similar to those in cities across the Valley such as Phoenix, Glendale, Peoria and Mesa. It requires retailers such as pawnshops, gold-buying establishments and scrap-metal dealers to file electronic reports when they make a purchase of $25 or more.

Those who buy precious metals, such as gold, secondhand have to file reports regardless of how much they pay.

The reports, filed with a national criminal database tracking stolen property, will cost $3 per transaction. Those fees will pay for the department's about $1,600 annual subscription. The database identifies items that are reported stolen and alerts police.

The system identifies stolen property using serial numbers, physical appearances such as colors, shapes and sizes, aftermarket alterations and damage.

"It's really a balancing act," said Det. Tim Klarkowski, who helped craft the ordinance. "We have to keep our public safe . . . but at the same time we don't want to put that burden all on the businesses."

Klarkowski said one way they've done that is by keeping the reporting fees lower than in other Valley cities.

That's little comfort to Daniel Villa, manager of V Jewelers at Bell Road and West Point Parkway.

Villa, who attended a Tuesday community meeting on the ordinance, said he doesn't yet know how the fees are going to impact his bottom line.

He's concerned V Jewelers, which buys gold, might have to pass the cost on to customers.

Villa said his store takes in items worth as little as $10. A $3 fee may not sound like a lot, but it can put a big dent in profits.

"I understand that the consumer needs to be protected. But it's not going to be cheap. It adds up."

Villa said he's also doesn't like the reporting requirement, saying it can take up to two hours on days when his business makes a lot of purchases.

Glendale Det. Joe Gallagher oversees enforcement of a similar pawnshop ordinance in his city. Glendale has about 80 businesses that fall under the requirements, he said. They include everything from gun dealers to gold buyers.

Gallagher said the reporting requirements help police arrest one to two suspects a month.

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