November 22, 2013
Five Keurig coffee makers.
$1,000 worth of Crest White Strip tooth whiteners.
Those are just some of the things local thieves have been caught stealing thanks to a new Oneida County law that requires secondhand shops to list their inventories on a website.
The law went into effect last spring, and now the Sheriff's Office, Utica Police Department and some other local law enforcement agencies can access a website called leadsonline.com, where inventories from all over the country can be searched for stolen items.
In the three and a half months Utica police have been participating, they have made eight arrests thanks to the system, said Sgt. Michael Siriano, who oversees the Burglary Division.
Officers noticed several Keurigs on inventories and launched an investigation that caught a thief with a habit of pinching the coffee makers from stores. The same happened when numerous boxes of Crest White Strips popped up at various pawnshops.
In another case, an individual had sold numerous things all at once to local pawnshops. Now he's been caught, and Utica police believe he is responsible for at least a dozen daytime burglaries of homes in East Utica.
"As this continues to grow, we expect our success stories to grow as well," Siriano said.
Oneida County Sheriff Rob Maciol said his department is seeing successes as well. Maciol didn't have numbers to show how many arrests had been made because of the law, but said it is making his deputies' job easier.
"We used to have to go physically to each pawn shop," he said. 'With dozens and dozens of pawnshops in Oneida County, that's extremely manpower intensive. Now, we have automatic searches."
So far, only the sheriff and the Utica and Rome police have signed onto the leadsonline.com site. Participation comes at a price determined by the size of the agency. For the Sheriff's Office, it is $6,100 a year.
Under the law, all dealers of secondhand goods are required to enter inventory lists once a week. They also are required not to sell any jewelry for at least seven days.
The state still does not have such a law, but counties across the state have adopted them. Locally, Onondaga County has a similar law, Maciol said.
Felix Steppello, owner of Gold Leaf Refining in New Hartford, said he has had one item that was found to be stolen under the system, out of about 2,000 items he has received since the law went into effect.
He has mixed feelings about the law.
"As far as helping with the retrieval of stuff, I believe that part is working," said Steppello, who also is president of the Oneida County Second Hand Dealers Association. "They just didn't think of us and our costs."
Steppello said he had hired part-timers to input the inventories, because the process was so labor intensive. Photos of the objects must be loaded onto the site, and numerous pieces of information about the seller must be input for each item, he said.
Additionally, the price of gold is falling, so the seven-day delay for selling items has hurt dealers like him financially, he said.
Steppello said he knows that businesses like his sometimes receive stolen items, but it's not as common as people might think.