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By Christopher Salas
January 18, 2017
KALISPELL, Mont. – If you walk into a pawn shop and you can find just about anything you're looking for.
"If we can make money on it we'll take it," Anything Pawn manager Scott Alsbury said.
From video games to sporting equipment, each item has a different story on how it got there.
"But there's always the chance that it's stolen. So if you think it is you try to get it for a little bit less amount or do some research. There's a site we can look at," Alsbury said.
Two years after we told you how Kalispell required all pawn shops and some secondhand stores to log inventory through a software system called Leads Online, authorities say they've been able to charge suspects in a string of multiple thefts in the Hutton Ranch area due in large part to the software.
Leads Online is an online database that connects every pawn shop and some retailers in the city to the police department.
They say it has been instrumental for them over the past two years.
"There's any number of cases throughout the course of a year. Sometimes it can be the whole case of stolen items, and sometimes it can be just a lead that points us in the right direction," Kalispell Investigations Captain Doug Overman said.
After looking through the police database, in the year 2014 we found 801 reported thefts. In 2016 there were 1,185. Overman says the increase in theft is due to increased drug use.
Despite the software's designed goal for good, pawn shops say there's unintended backlash.
Pawn shops that wanted to remain anonymous said sometimes they'll purchase an item from a customer and because of the database the police will confiscate the item and the pawn shop receives no compensation.
Those same pawn shops say the police don't always match a serial number when taking a suspicious item. Others say it scares customers away because of privacy concerns.
"We just feel like it's a breach of your privacy for our customers. A lot of our customers came to us and they were freaked out. They were like 'We don't want them knowing our information,'" Pawn shop employee Jackie Smith said.
The pawn shops say the database gives police everything that's on the customers driver's license.
Kalispell authorities report that they've been able to recover approximately $16,000 worth of stolen goods in the last 10 months.