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By Lynette Hintze
February 12, 2017
Flathead County Sheriff Chuck Curry on Thursday presented a draft pawnbroker ordinance to the county commissioners that aims to help law-enforcement officers recover stolen property.
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 would require pawnbrokers in the county to get a photo identification of the person pawning an item, and requires 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 city ordinance, while state law forbids counties from regulating secondhand businesses.
"It's been a huge success for Kalispell," Curry told the commissioners about the city's ordinance.
Kalispell Police Chief Roger Nasset recently told the Inter Lake his department has recovered upward of $50,000 in stolen property since it enacted the pawn shop ordinance.
Both the city and county subscribe to LeadsOnline, a technology service that provides a link between investigators and missing items. Businesses 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 system.
Curry said the Sheriff's Office has a designated employee that looks at LeadsOnline on a daily basis. There are an estimated eight to 10 pawn shops operating in the county.
"If we have a known burglar pawning a lot of items, that provides a lot of information for us," Curry said. "It helps us identify people and helps us recover items."
It's now up to the commissioners to decide how to move forward with the proposal. Commissioner Phil Mitchell said he supports a countywide pawnbroker ordinance.
"It provides an important tool in an area of increasing crime," Mitchell said.