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Councilmen target pawn shops in theft-to-drugs cycle

By Theo Keith

November 5, 2013

Two Metro councilmen said one way to slow the cycle between property theft and drugs is by targeting Louisville's pawn shops that don't report their transactions.

Many shops already use the website, which cites success stories of helping reunite victims with their belongings. But other shops still use an outdated paper inventory system, said Councilman David James, a Democrat.

"A police officer has to go to each of those stories everyday and pick up the (paperwork)," James said. "In the meantime, that means people's belongings that have been stolen and pawned – they don't get recovered."

The ordinance would allow Metro police to cross-reference pawn shop inventories with reports of stolen items. A similar ordinance for scrap-metal dealers and the second-hand industry has been successful, James said.

The ordinance would also require pawn shop employees to take photos of every item they accept.

Uncle Miltie's Pawn Shop in South Louisville already uploads its inventory to the online reporting database, and includes information about the seller.

Employee Audrey Johnson said the store doesn't take photos of individual items, and he questioned whether it would help.

"It's not going to stop the theft – it's still going to happen," Johnson said. "The only thing is that, now, when it comes into a pawn shop, there'll be a picture of it."

The ordinance could create a financial burden for smaller shops because of the technology required, Johnson said.

James, a University of Louisville Police lieutenant, said property crimes in the Metro are often traced to drug problems, especially heroin and prescription pills.

"And that means breaking into your home or robbing you or breaking into your car," he said. "And the way they get money for that is by going to a pawnbroker."

The ordinance also requires pawn shops to hold items for 10 days before selling them and to allow Metro police to place a hold on any item they find suspicious. Johnson said many pawn shops already do those things.

The proposal will be in front of a Metro committee next week. James said he's hopefully it will pass the full Council in the next month.

Councilman Kevin Kramer, a Republican, co-sponsored the ordinance.


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