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Secondhand shops get stricter rules

By Katie Moritz

August 12, 2014

Juneau's secondhand stores, including gun stores and gold buyers, will have stricter rules to follow now that the Assembly has passed an ordinance requiring shops hold valuable items for 30 days and report them to the police department.

The Assembly voted 7-2 to approve the ordinance, which has been revised for two months in response to business owners' objections during Assembly Human Resources Committee meetings. Mayor Merrill Sanford and Assemblyman Jerry Nankervis voted against.

The ordinance is aimed at keeping better tabs on stolen valuables sold to secondhand stores. It requires shops to hold precious metals and gems, gold coins and bullion, tools, firearms and electronics valued over $50 for 30 days before they can be sold to customers.

It also requires shop owners to enter information on valuable items and the person who sold them into an online database called LeadsOnline. The Juneau Police Department purchased the program but business owners must enter in the information.

Failing to report transaction information online is considered a class "B" misdemeanor through the ordinance. Ray Coxe, owner of Rayco Sales, said at Monday's Assembly meeting that the burden on business owners is too great. He said he's used to being able to do easy trades for items.

"I'm going to have to take every item to the back of the store ... list it, itemize it, number it," Coxe said to the Assembly. "Plus, I'm going to sit on that merchandise for 30 days. I think the cost of the whole thing for the dealer is absurd. Too much time involved to keep all these kinds of records."

He said he doesn't currently have the staff to keep the electronic records, and might have to hire someone new. Under federal law, all gun dealers must keep paper records of every transaction they make.

The 30-day holding period is intended to keep potentially stolen items in one place, giving victims time to report a theft to the police and recover their items from shops. JPD officers said during the ordinance drafting process that this happens often. However, they have been unable to provide the number of cases in which stolen goods have shown up at Juneau secondhand stores.

Frank Mesdag, representing the Juneau Mercantile and Armory shooting range, said the holding period is arbitrary. He asked why 30 days had been selected. He also said that holding items for 30 days comes at a huge cost to business owners.

"Those are a carrying cost," Mesdag said. "We, in effect, delay our profit as such ... Thirty days can make and does make a huge difference."

Assemblyman Jesse Kiehl, who chairs the Human Resources Committee, said 30 days was the recommendation of JPD.

"Certainly there's no magic in 30 days as opposed to 45 days or 15 days," he said. "It didn't seem appropriate to lengthen that because of the carrying costs."

Mesdag said that logging information on who sold the store the item will also be a burden.

"Are you aware that what's being required is already state law?" Assemblyman Loren Jones asked Mesdag.

Mesdag said he did know and that the store is in compliance.

Dylan Hammons, the "Juneau Gold Buyer" who operates a store in the Nugget Mall, has been outspoken against the ordinance at several Human Resources Committee meetings. At Monday's Assembly meeting, however, he said he now agreed with the ordinance. Hammons recently announced he will run for Assembly in the coming election.

"I give my stamp of approval with a few reservations," Hammons said to the Assembly.

He said he wanted the holding period for raw gold and bullion stricken from the ordinance because holding those items for 30 days will not allow him to provide a fair price to sellers.

Dennis Watson, a member of the Planning Commission, spoke in support of the ordinance. He said several valuable items, "irreplaceable in our family's eyes," had been stolen from his family in a different city. If it had not been for similar laws in that city, he wouldn't have seen those items again, he said. As a businessman, however, he said he feels for the business owners that will be impacted by the ordinance.

"From a victim's side, this is a very important ordinance for the community," Watson said to the Assembly. "This community needs more protection, I should say. Right now we have little. There's gotta be a give and take and it's important that you all take some action tonight."

Nankervis, a former police officer, voted against the ordinance because it "lowers the bar" and permits police officers to seize goods they believe to be stolen from shops without a search warrant, he said.

"I'm not willing to sacrifice what I believe to be a closely held right — that's on unreasonable searches and seizures — and I believe this steps a little too closely along those lines," Nankervis said.

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