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County Pawn Law Receives Green Light

By Lynnette Hintze

March 21, 2017

A county-wide pawnbroker ordinance that aims to help law enforcement officers recover stolen property won unanimous approval on the first reading from the Flathead County commissioners on Monday.

A second and final reading will be voted on within 12 days, with the new ordinance taking effect 30 days after that.

The proposal is similar to the ordinance the city of Kalispell adopted a couple of years ago that requires pawn shops to use online software to connect their inventory to the police department. It will require pawnbrokers in the county to get the customer's name, date of birth and documentation from one or more identification documents, including a valid state ID card, valid state driver's license, military ID card, a valid passport, an alien registration card or an official ID document issued by a state or federal government.

The new law further will require pawnbrokers to input information about who pawned the items and what they pawned into a computer database that officers then electronically track.

A key difference between the Kalispell ordinance and the county's proposal is that secondhand shops are included in the Kalispell ordinance, while state law forbids counties from regulating secondhand businesses.

Flathead County Sheriff Chuck Curry told the commissioners he believes the new ordinance will "provide some important tools to help recover stolen property and catch people who have burglarized residences without being overly onerous or cumbersome for the business owners."

The county subscribes to LeadsOnline, a technology service that provides a link between investigators and missing items. Businesses can tap into the software free of charge. The information pawnbrokers provide is encrypted and secure, according to LeadsOnline. Only authorized law enforcement officials investigating crimes have access to the data on the LeadsOnline system.

Currently, some pawn shops within the county voluntarily report, but not all of them, Curry said.

"This isn't going to solve our theft problem, but it's an important tool in our tool belt," he added.

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