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Westchester proposes pawn shop law to curb sale of stolen goods

Westchester proposes pawn shop law to curb sale of stolen goods

WHITE PLAINS – Local pawn shops laws are about to enter the 21st century a few years late.

Westchester County officials want to update the law regulating businesses that deal in diamonds and other precious gems and metals – for the first time since Ronald Reagan was president.

“The one thing we all know working together was there were a lot of words missing from this law, like database, like Internet-like technology,” Jim Maisano, director of the Department of Consumer Protection, told reporters at a news conference Friday.

The updates would help police retrieve stolen jewelry and other items before they are sold by the vendors, officials said. The law, which hasn’t been updated since 1985, will allow for digital reporting for the first time.

Today, secondhand vendors have to keep track of all transactions on paper mail them to the county. County police then input the information into a computer and the information with local police departments to see if they can match up items with local cases.

Vendors have to hold an item 14 days before selling but even that hasn’t been long enough with the paper system, said Thomas Gleason, commissioner of the Department of Public Safety.

“Many times the stolen goods were already disposed of,” Gleason said.

There are roughly 425 licensed secondhand operators in the county today, according to the county. But the law proposes a more stringent background check, and new fees: a $250 application and an annual $200 renewal fee. Today, vendors only have to pay for a ledger to keep track of the transactions.

Changes to the bill were announced by County Executive George Latimer, a Democrat, who said he’d sign the bill once it makes its way to his desk. He was joined by lawmakers Margaret Cunzio and Kitley Covill. Cunzio, a Mount Pleasant Conservative Party member, and Covill, a Katonah Democrat, said they will sponsor the bill in the legislature.

How much implementing the new program wasn’t yet known, with police officials saying they’d seek software that could allow them to communicate electronically with New York State Police and the NYPD. That’ll help them in cases where items are stolen in one jurisdiction and sold in another, county police Chief John Hodges said.

“That’s what we want to do – we don’t want to have disparate databases,” he said.

Violators of the new law would get a violation and face a fine up to $1,000 or as much as 15 days in jail. A second violation would be a misdemeanor punishable by $5,000, imprisonment up to a year, or both.

Follow Mark Lungariello on Facebook: @lungariello; and Twitter: @marklungariello.

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