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Gold rush: Cops encourage digital filing as precious metal sales surge

By Laura Incalcaterra

September 3, 2013

The rush to sell off unwanted gold as prices soared to record highs created a massive workload for local law enforcement agencies that review trade-ins to spot stolen goods.

Now, the push is on to get local jewelry stores and pawn shops in Rockland, Putnam and Westchester counties to switch from paper to electronic filing.

Secondhand precious metals and gem dealers in each of the three counties are required to keep information about all of their sales, including a description of the items they are buying and the identity of the seller.

The information gets reported to the Rockland and Putnam County sheriff's offices and the Westchester County Department of Public Safety Services, which in turn keep files available for criminal investigations.

But the volume of paperwork has made it difficult for law enforcement to keep up with the recording and filing of the paper reports.

"When the law was passed many years ago, there were very few precious metals coming in," Rockland County Sheriff Louis Falco said.

Things changed when the economy tanked and the price of gold continued to soar, reaching a record high of $1,913.50 per troy ounce in 2011.

As of Tuesday, it was still selling well, just over $1,400 an ounce, and some have speculated that instability in Syria could contribute to new increases.

"We can't keep up with the workload," Falco said. "Specifically because the economy was going down, people were cashing in more of their stuff."

Falco said his department saw the number of monthly reports from 32 stores in Rockland increase from about 200 forms a month in 2008 to about 2,000 in 2011.

Capt. William McNamara of the Putnam Sheriff's Office said in July 2009, 201 forms were received from the 15 dealers in his county, but that by July 2011, the number had increased by more than 75 percent to 357.

Gold dealers are regulated by county consumer protection laws and the consumer protection offices in the three counties work with law enforcement to adjust regulations when needed.

"Anything we can do to make the consumer marketplace safer, our businesses safer, we want to support," Putnam County Consumer Affairs Director Jean Noel said.

Putnam County adopted new e-filing requirements in July and expects to have them in place by the end of the year.

The Rockland County Legislature voted 16-0 on Tuesday night to adopt a law to require the switch to e-filing.

Westchester Department of Public Safety Capt. Christopher Calabrese said shops in his county have been in the process of transitioning from paper to electronic filing.

"It frees up manpower for police officers to actually do investigation and enforcement as opposed to computer entry," Calabrese said.

Westchester saw its reports go from 52,733 in 2010 to 68,960 in 2011.

All three counties reported a decrease in the number of forms since gold hit a high, but police officials said that the numbers were still significant enough to warrant the switch.

Rockland County Sheriff's Office Detective Sgt. Dennis Stoll said he has reached out to local shops to speak with them about the change the county is hoping to make.

"When the prices of precious metals went through the roof, our workload went through the roof," Stoll said.

"This was just a common-sense thing to do," he said.

He said the county also asked some shops to participate in a pilot program to see how well the software worked and to allow owners to learn how to use it.

All three counties use or plan to use LeadsOnline, a software program rising in popularity among law enforcement agencies across the country.

Falco said it cost Rockland $5,000 to purchase the software and that there will be a recurring annual cost of $5,000 to keep running it.

He said it allows stores to take photos of items to make it easier to identify stolen goods and allows officers to access the information remotely.

Currently, county police must drive to headquarters and go through files by hand to read descriptions.

Polina Alexiou, one of the owners of Molino Jewelers in Pomona, said the new system is working out well.

Her store is piloting the program.

"I think it's great," Alexiou said. "It makes it easier. Right now, we're hand-writing everything in the book. It's a little tedious."

She said the paper forms take longer to complete than the e-forms, which include an auto-fill feature that cuts down on the information that must be entered.

She said the new system also eliminates the need to mail a packet of forms to the police each day.

Christine Perez, a manager at Westchester Jewelry and Pawn Shop in New Rochelle, also likes the new system.

"There are people who are crooked and they take things from people that are of sentimental value," Perez said.

The electronic filing system makes it easier to track down stolen items and to return them to their owners, she said.

John Buonoinfante, a manager of the shop and three others that are part of Quick Cash USA, said his family has been using e-filing for more than a decade and supported the shift to the new system.

"It helps us cooperate with the police," Buonoinfante said.

Putnam County adopted new e-filing requirements in July and expects to have them in place by the end of the year.

The Rockland County Legislature voted 16-0 on Tuesday night to adopt a law to require the switch to e-filing.

Westchester Department of Public Safety Capt. Christopher Calabrese said shops in his county have been in the process of transitioning from paper to electronic filing.

"It frees up manpower for police officers to actually do investigation and enforcement as opposed to computer entry," Calabrese said.

Westchester saw its reports go from 52,733 in 2010 to 68,960 in 2011.

All three counties reported a decrease in the number of forms since gold hit a high, but police officials said that the numbers were still significant enough to warrant the switch.

Rockland County Sheriff's Office Detective Sgt. Dennis Stoll said he has reached out to local shops to speak with them about the change the county is hoping to make.

"When the prices of precious metals went through the roof, our workload went through the roof," Stoll said.

"This was just a common-sense thing to do," he said.

He said the county also asked some shops to participate in a pilot program to see how well the software worked and to allow owners to learn how to use it.

All three counties use or plan to use LeadsOnline, a software program rising in popularity among law enforcement agencies across the country.

Falco said it cost Rockland $5,000 to purchase the software and that there will be a recurring annual cost of $5,000 to keep running it.

He said it allows stores to take photos of items to make it easier to identify stolen goods and allows officers to access the information remotely.

Currently, county police must drive to headquarters and go through files by hand to read descriptions.

Polina Alexiou, one of the owners of Molino Jewelers in Pomona, said the new system is working out well.

Her store is piloting the program.

"I think it's great," Alexiou said. "It makes it easier. Right now, we're hand-writing everything in the book. It's a little tedious."

She said the paper forms take longer to complete than the e-forms, which include an auto-fill feature that cuts down on the information that must be entered.

She said the new system also eliminates the need to mail a packet of forms to the police each day.

Christine Perez, a manager at Westchester Jewelry and Pawn Shop in New Rochelle, also likes the new system.

"There are people who are crooked and they take things from people that are of sentimental value," Perez said.

The electronic filing system makes it easier to track down stolen items and to return them to their owners, she said.

John Buonoinfante, a manager of the shop and three others that are part of Quick Cash USA, said his family has been using e-filing for more than a decade and supported the shift to the new system.

"It helps us cooperate with the police," Buonoinfante said.

Putnam County adopted new e-filing requirements in July and expects to have them in place by the end of the year.

The Rockland County Legislature voted 16-0 on Tuesday night to adopt a law to require the switch to e-filing.

Westchester Department of Public Safety Capt. Christopher Calabrese said shops in his county have been in the process of transitioning from paper to electronic filing.

"It frees up manpower for police officers to actually do investigation and enforcement as opposed to computer entry," Calabrese said.

Westchester saw its reports go from 52,733 in 2010 to 68,960 in 2011.

All three counties reported a decrease in the number of forms since gold hit a high, but police officials said that the numbers were still significant enough to warrant the switch.

Rockland County Sheriff's Office Detective Sgt. Dennis Stoll said he has reached out to local shops to speak with them about the change the county is hoping to make.

"When the prices of precious metals went through the roof, our workload went through the roof," Stoll said.

"This was just a common-sense thing to do," he said.

He said the county also asked some shops to participate in a pilot program to see how well the software worked and to allow owners to learn how to use it.

All three counties use or plan to use LeadsOnline, a software program rising in popularity among law enforcement agencies across the country.

Falco said it cost Rockland $5,000 to purchase the software and that there will be a recurring annual cost of $5,000 to keep running it.

He said it allows stores to take photos of items to make it easier to identify stolen goods and allows officers to access the information remotely.

Currently, county police must drive to headquarters and go through files by hand to read descriptions.

Polina Alexiou, one of the owners of Molino Jewelers in Pomona, said the new system is working out well.

Her store is piloting the program.

"I think it's great," Alexiou said. "It makes it easier. Right now, we're hand-writing everything in the book. It's a little tedious."

She said the paper forms take longer to complete than the e-forms, which include an auto-fill feature that cuts down on the information that must be entered.

She said the new system also eliminates the need to mail a packet of forms to the police each day.

Christine Perez, a manager at Westchester Jewelry and Pawn Shop in New Rochelle, also likes the new system.

"There are people who are crooked and they take things from people that are of sentimental value," Perez said.

The electronic filing system makes it easier to track down stolen items and to return them to their owners, she said.

John Buonoinfante, a manager of the shop and three others that are part of Quick Cash USA, said his family has been using e-filing for more than a decade and supported the shift to the new system.

"It helps us cooperate with the police," Buonoinfante said.

Source: http://www.lohud.com/article/20130903/NEWS03/309030065/Gold-rush-Cops-encourage-digital-filing-precious-metal-sales-surge?odyssey=mod%7Cnewswell%7Ctext%7C%7Cs

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