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Proposed law could make it harder for local burglars to convert loot into cash

County officials hope a proposed local law will make it harder for thieves to sell stolen property.

The law will be presented for the first time to the County Legislature at Monday's Public Service Committee meeting.

It would require certain secondhand retailers to:

  • Obtain a county license through the County Clerk's Office;
  • Maintain records of sellers and items sold, including pictures of precious metal items;
  • Obtain and examine a photo ID;
  • Make a daily report to the Sheriff's Office of items purchased from sellers;
  • Not purchase items from people under the age of 18;
  • Retain items purchased without reselling or altering them for 10 days;
  • Report suspicious sellers to law enforcement.

District Attorney Lawrence Friedman said the proposed law went through a diligent review process that included looking at the successes and failures of similar laws in other jurisdictions.

Assisting in crafting the law were County Clerk Don Read, County Attorney Chuck Deputy Chief Jerome Brewster from the Sheriff's Office and Batavia PD Det. Pat Corona.

There have been burglaries solved in communities, like Rochester, because of such laws, Friedman said, which is why local law enforcement officials came to him with a request to draft something for Genesee County.

The law would also help the victims of theft recover stolen property.

We spoke to the DA just before the sentencing of Ryan P. Johnson -- who admitted to stealing $68,000 in precious family heirloom jewelry from a Batavia resident but the thief could only help recover $14,000 of the stolen items.

"We'll try to get restitution for the victim, of course, but what's that worth?" Friedman said.

A similar law in a Southern Tier county was eventually repealed because it was overly broad, Friedman said, taking in, for example, flea markets.

The proposed Genesee County law carefully defines covered businesses as pawn shops, precious metal dealers, transient merchants that deal in such items and scrap metal processors (scrap metal processors are exempt from a couple of the law's provisions, such as retaining items for 10 days).

"We tried to come up with a list who is affected by this and we came up with 10 businesses," Friedman said.

Those 10 business owners will be receiving invitations to attend a public hearing on the proposed law once the date is set.

The typical residential garage sale person isn't covered by the law, nor are thrift stores, which don't buy items for resale.

Reputable dealers will welcome the new law, said Jimmy Vo, owner of Batavia Gold Rush, at 4152 W. Main Street Road, Batavia.

Reasonable people, he said, don't want to see victims lose valuables and the law will put all of the secondhand dealers on equal footing, with all purchases handled the same way.

There are a couple of aspects of the proposed law Vo would like to see changed before it passes, however.

First, pawn shops, he said, should be required to hold typical retail items for 14 days before reselling them, while precious metal dealers (or pawn shops buying precious metal) should be allowed to sell those metals seven days after purchase.

Any delay in reselling gold, for example, puts a precious metal dealer at risk, he said, because prices can fluctuate quickly.

One day last week, he said, gold lost 20 percent of its value.

"Anybody holding gold lost his shirt that day," Vo said. "The longer you hold gold, the more you can lose."

Seven days should be enough time, he said, for law enforcement to help a victim identify and recover an item, but the proposed 10 days makes the delay unreasonably long.

Vo also takes issue with the requirement that dealers report suspicious sellers. He said New York has previously tried to get such laws through, but they don't work because just somebody is twitching, for example, doesn't mean a peson is on drugs. A police officer has to meet a higher level of probable cause to arrest somebody, so a dealer can't be expected to act as a law enforcement officer just because somebody is acting suspicious.

Overall, Vo said he's happy with the proposed law. As a one-time crime victim himself, he thinks it's important to give victims a tool that will help law enforcement capture criminals and victims recover stolen property.

Often times, the personal value of the property far exceeds any monetary worth.

"That ring that belonged to great-great-grandma may be worth only $100, but it can't be replaced," Vo said. "That's the gut-wrenching problem that can be solved with a law like this."

UPDATE 10 p.m.: We didn't get a chance to talk with Det. Pat Corona before writing the story, but he called us tonight.

Corona said it's his hope that the law will act as a deterrent to would-be burglars, help law enforcement solve crimes, help victims recover property, be convenient for resellers and serve the community better.

"My motive is help victims recover their property and help us hold people responsible," Corona said.

Lisa Falkowski
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Is this taking things too far? Criminals are going to find a way. What about someone who is in a pinch and selling personal possessions to feed their family? This seems like a penalty. Now to reduce/reuse/recycle...one mans trash is anothers treasure...is coming to this form of scrutiny? I may not fully understand all that is involved, so other input is welcome.

cj sruger
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more government, more regulations, more more more... where does it stop?

Matt Hendershott
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What retailers would this really effect other than the pawn king and maybe the toy place down on ellicott? Seems like overkill for the simple fact that these people will A: just leave the county making it even harder to track stolen goods to the criminal or B: sell what ever stolen "loot" they get to regular people for cheap. I think for the minimal amount of crime it "might" actually help solve, the hinderance to the regular person, and businesses is not necessary. Its not like this is a serious big city issue where it would lead to large amounts of arrests. If anything, it will probably give law enforcement more to deal with. Im sure it will require more effort from staff, meaning more hours, more tax money spent. In the words of CJ, more government, more regulations,more more more. And instead of where, I will say "what" does it stop? It still won't stop the crime from occurring initially.

My .02

Mark Potwora
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i agree Matt..This is over kill....Because people steal and rob..They make more laws for a law abiding person to do business..Typical government answer...Put more burden on the honest law abiding citizen..

t

Dave Olsen
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I don't get "screw the victims" from the above comments, Howard. I think since it's only going to affect 10 retailers, wouldn't it have made sense for someone from the county to get those retailers thoughts first? instead of looking at other jurisdictions and then proposing a new law and waiting to see if anyone shows up to a hearing. This was an opportunity to engage a very small group and find out what's fair, first.

Dave Olsen
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I get that, Howard. I can understand that losing something that has sentimental value would be devastating, and no amount of money will replace it. I think the intent here is great. I believe that protecting personal property is a main function of the police. It's the manner of making a decree and then saying, we'll have a hearing and anyone can come and tell us what they don't like about it, that I'm criticizing. It could have begun with getting the retailers' input, instead of ending with. The ends never justify the means.
Government becomes more transparent and serves the citizens better by engaging the community for solutions when a problem arises rather than slamming new laws on us. Maybe the result would be the same law, but people will get behind it better when they are part of the process instead of an after thought.

Peter O'Brien
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Do you have a list of those 10 businesses? What about Gamzilla, Game Players Unlimited, and Gamestop.

Each one is a buy/sell/trade video game shop.

This to me amounts to the Genesee County Safe Act. All the regulations are going to make it harder on law abiding citizens while the criminals will just sell in another county.

Raymond Richardson
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Currently there are laws on the books, which are quite vigorously enforced, but they only cover Pawn Shops across the state.

This legislation sounds like it will broaden the net to any second hand retailer who buys and sells used items, jewelry and coin exchanges, etc.

Gary Diegelman
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Well past time a law like this went into effect here in Genesee County. The first place a thief stops is a pawn shop to get maybe 20 cents on the dollar for their stolen property.
That piece of property can go out the door with the next customer or be on a truck to another pawn shop in the big city with no chance of recovery and very little record keeping. Anything that can deter thefts and make it harder to cash in on your ill gotten gains is good.

Kyle Couchman
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First of all, I read this story twice. It's being presented to the County Legislature on Mon. Its not being voted in to law just yet. Everyone saying local retailers should have been consulted need to pay attention to the part that said the 10 business owners will be invited to a public hearing when it is scheduled. It takes time for a proposed law to become an actual law. The legislature itself needs to review and discuss it as well and make their suggested alterations before putting it up to a public hearing. So calling this a "safe act" type legislation is completely false and disengenuous.

I can see the good things that will come out of it. I can also see the validity of some people thinking its a reach as well. I dont think many "criminals" that dont already come here to steal are gonna go outside the county to sell if they arent doing so already so that argument is out the door. What it gonna do is discourage local knuckleheads from doing this crap by making it a problem to cash in locally. I especially like the inclusion of other places besides "pawn shops" as these places. Sentimentality of items stolen is of much more worth than monetary value sometimes. My grandmother passed quite a few years back, she was fairly healthy but had some of her husband's jewelry stolen and the sadness and stress actually affected her health to the point of death. None of it was valuable mind you, but sentimentality can make cost much more serious.

I think theres much more pros to this law than there are cons. I understand Mr. Vo's point about gold jewelry, about price fluctuations. But generally these slumps in gold are rare and can even reverse themselves just as quickly. I think the chance of the gold being worth more in the 14 day wait is much more likely than not, just look at the last 30 days. That dip Mr. Vo was talking about was pretty severe but it is coming back up steadily. http://www.kitco.com/charts/popup/au0030lnb.html

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