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Police work to protect theft victims

Legislation goes for the gold to protect theft victims

By Janelle Walker

March 31, 2013

When Anna Moeller was almost certain she had found her mother's stolen brooch on eBay, she went to the Hoffman Estates store that was advertising the piece for sale.

But without any record of where the piece came from at the store, and no proof of her own , she couldn't say for sure whether the brooch was the one that had been taken from her home nearly eight months before.

She ended up buying the brooch.

The transaction spurred Moeller, an Elgin City Council member, to contact state Rep. Mike Tryon (R-Crystal Lake), to work on legislation that would prevent that kind of uncertainty.

Elgin and 80 other Illinois municipalities have regulations for second-hand sellers, consignment shops and cash-for-gold shops. But unlike pawn shops, which are highly regulated by state and local laws, many stores are not required to get identification from the seller or record the pieces they take in, Moeller said.

After talking with Moeller, Tryon introduced the "cash-for-gold" bill — an amendment to the Pawnbroker Regulation Act.

House Bill 3359 would create a "Precious Metal Purchasers Task Force" to study how to implement regulations without negatively affecting other businesses, such as precious-metal dealers. That task force is to report back to the General Assembly by Dec. 31. The bill has been placed on the House calendar for a second reading, according to the Illinois General Assembly website.

It is an issue that needs addressing, Tryon said.

"I was approached by Anna Moeller about the ordinance that Elgin had passed, and the problems with basically second-hand retailers and cash-for-gold places," Tryon said.

These businesses act much like pawn shops, he said — taking in seller's items and placing them for sale. The difference is that the items are sold to the stores for the stores to sell, not for possible future redemption of the item by the seller.

Other states legislate these kinds of stores, Tryon said.

In Indiana, a bill that would regulate precious-metal dealers who buy used jewelry made of gold, silver or platinum, has cleared the House and Senate and awaits the governor's signature. The law would require dealers to register with the secretary of state's office each year and have a fixed business site owned or leased for at least 12 months.

Florida has had regulations in place for several years. Those and other laws need to be studied to determine best practices, Tryon said.

Elgin's law, passed in 2012, requires for-profit cash-for-gold buyers and consignment shops to obtain a business license, pay a $200 fee and renew that license each year.

When jewelry, audio-visual equipment or anything that is or could be identified with a serial number is brought in for sale, the buyer must register that item in Leadsonline.com. The Elgin Police Department uses Leads, a private database website, to register the serial number of anything reported stolen in the city.

Buyers must list each individually identifiable article brought into a resale dealer by an individual separately — not as a lot. The buyer must also log the type of article; brand, make and maker; model or serial number; color or finish, and any other identifiable marks. They also must take a digital photo of the item and scan and upload the seller's identification.

These are the kinds of regulations Tryon and other lawmakers want to see at the state level.

"Today's criminal . . . you don't go to a pawnbroker," because of how highly regulated the businesses are, he said.

"My angle, originally, was to look at jewelry, musical instruments and electronics," and the stores that purchase them, Tryon said. "Those are the things of high value that they are not taking to a consignment store for a non-profit. . . They are looking for money," and an easy sale.

There are things residents can do to safeguard their property as well. Leadsonline.com allows residents in municipalities it works with to create an online database of their valuables. Residents can attach photos, with descriptions of the valuables, to that database.

Moeller wishes she had done that before her mother's jewelry went missing.

"It was my mom's jewelry that I had inherited from her, so it is irreplaceable," Moeller said. "Pawn shops are regulated, but those cash-for-gold places should have the same requirements to prevent these things from happening."

Source: http://www.suntimes.com/business/19200043-420/legislation-goes-for-the-gold-to-protect-theft-victims.html

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