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Secondhand ordinance returning thousands to rightful owners

By Lindsey Branwall

November 17, 2014

From a criminal's standpoint, pawn and secondhand shops can be a quick ticket to get some cash off stolen goods.

In 2012, Madison tried to solve that problem through an ordinance passed requiring pawn shops and secondhand dealers to report their transactions to the police, and two years later, it's changing the face of pawn shops.

Crime victims are often getting their high priced items like laptops and jewelry back and those selling the stolen items, are leaving the store in handcuffs.

"The person who was trying to sell us the merchandise was apprehended by the Madison Police Department right here in the store," said Dave Post with the Madison Pawn America.

It's not necessarily the sight Post wants to see, but he'll take it.

"Yeah, absolutely, but I would much rather worry about making sure that the person, that the right person has the merchandise back," said Post.

It means more and more criminals are finding they can't get away with pawning stolen items.

"When they pawn an item, they are aware that their photograph is being taken. Those who are involved in committing these property crimes are aware that, somehow, their information is being captured," said Sgt. Brian Chaney with the Madison Police Department.

It's all thanks to Madison's ordinance requiring pawn and secondhand shops to use a program called Leads Online.

"At the end of the day, we go through and we just download these are all the pictures and everything," said Post.

In 2012, Leads Online helped recover 59,000 dollars worth of stolen goods in Madison. In 2013, it returned 1,000 dollars more, 60,000 dollars, worth back to their rightful owners.

And a few thousand dollars came back to Bethany Logeman in the form of her laptop.

"My laptop was my life as a student. I keep everything on there -- all my assignments, all my papers," said Logeman a UW-Madison student.

During finals week, Logeman had her laptop stolen.

"So I went and looked in my backpack, which was still there, looked in my laptop case and it was gone. So then I started freaking out," said Logeman.

Stories like Logeman's have happened quite a bit, but the way her story ends is happening more and more in Madison.

"A young lady got her Hewlett Packard laptop back. It was taken from her, her backpack was stolen, and somebody brought it in here. They had done some things to make it look like it was their computer, and we transmitted the serial number and all the info about the laptop," said Post.

"He just emailed me and was like, 'hey, we just picked up your laptop, and i was ecstatic," said Logeman.

Logeman was working directly with the Madison Police Department and they work with pawn shops in the area.

"The program is to make sure that we service some sort of deterrence to this crime, property crime," said Sgt. Chaney.

When an item is sold, the pawn shop takes pictures and information from the item and the seller.

It's uploaded to Leads Online. Madison Police Department also keeps track of theft and burglary reports.

"The businesses do a good job with taking good, high quality photos that the police department can access and compare and contrast to what the victim provides us," said Sgt. Chaney.

The dollar amount of items recovered through Leads Online has gone up each year, but Sgt. Chaney believes those numbers will start decreasing, and that's a good thing.

"The police department has been successful at arresting and holding accountable several suspects who were involved in property thefts, burglaries, theft from automobiles we hope to see some of our property crimes drop," said Sgt. Chaney.


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