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Pawning Responsibility

by on February 1, 2010

Can you prove what you’re selling is yours?  Wait: why should you have to if you didn’t do anything wrong?  You’re not on trial to establish the chain of ownership for any wristwatch or DVD player you put in hock.  But you may get legally hassled anyway depending on where you are.  To wit, The Buffalo News reports that Hamburg is considering passing a law to match Buffalo’s onerous pawnshop regulations:

Buffalo’s law requires pawnshops and those that deal in secondhand goods to obtain a photo identification of the seller, report daily to police on the items received the previous day and to hold the goods for 21 days before selling them.

Unfortunately, “designed to” is different than “does.”  Noble intentions aside, the regulations force decent vendors to jump through hoops; meanwhile, our area’s less virtuous dealers are presumably too busy dealing in stolen goods to bother filling out paperwork detailing what’s been sold.  The story notes that some police officers would like a similar law countywide, which will create equality: everyone would get the same headache.  One town is cutting ahead of the line.

But those regulations and a proposal in the Town of Hamburg to require the thumbprint of sellers are too restrictive for businesses, some say.

Maybe shopkeepers should have to snap mug shots, too, just in case.  Or, cops could trust the places that have earned it and focus upon the known rapscallions instead:

Buffalo police get good cooperation from business owners, Chief of Detectives Dennis J. Richards said.

“At the end of the day, there are certain legitimate businesses who abide by the law, and unfortunately there are those who try to skirt the law. That’s why we do check on a regular basis,” he said.

But the businesses who “try to skirt the law” are the same ones who wouldn’t help voluntarily.  They’ll naturally still act deviously even with a regulation in place.  On the other hand, the upright storefront proprietors are helpful without being compelled to do so.  Regardless, it’s apparently substance abusers who cause problems when they leave their dens to forage:

Police said many burglaries are committed by drug addicts looking for goods to sell to get money for their next fix. And if they steal it in one town, chances are they’ll take it to another town to sell it at a pawnshop or other secondhand store.

Those crafty tweakers!  Stopping the burglaries in the first place would seem to be the obvious priority.  Instead, police agencies do their best to chase down what’s taken:

That leaves detectives checking on jewelers and shops throughout the county. Sometimes they get cooperation from owners, but sometimes they don’t.

“I should be able to go into any pawnshop and ask for a business ledger and see what was brought in,” Town of Tonawanda Detective Tim Connolly said. “Right now there’s nothing. They may not keep records.”

Yes, but there’s a reason for said retail situation: the lack of records means that people are free to exchange goods for currency without fear of being the target of snooping.  A mandatory paper trail bothers honest people with the assumption that they’re required to document a legal transaction.  It’s not head shop employee-paranoia to want to keep one’s business private.  But one politician still wants to saddle the entire county with the policy:

Erie County Legislator Lynn Marinelli is pushing to have a single law cover Erie County. She said the vast majority of businesses are legitimate, legal businesses, but a county law would give law enforcement another tool to combat crime.

In truth, they should be tracking down felonious hoodlums and fingerprinting them, not forcing those exchanging their stuff for cash to leave thumbprints.  As with gun control and mindless airport screening, regarding everyone to be guilty only punishes the innocent.  Meanwhile, the dastardly skirt the blanket rules; as lawbreakers, it’s by definition what they do. 

So, please don’t worry for your neighborhood crackhead: he will find someone shady with which to engage commercially.  Meanwhile, people who would report themselves for jaywalking get hassled for either buying or selling dry goods.  They could turn to eBay if the countywide law ever passes, although a mandatory three-week cooling period before anyone can post items on internet auction sites will undoubtedly come next.  Thieves will appreciate one more crackdown upon competition.

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