3/31/2015 by D. Cammarota
Pawnshops and Law Enforcement
Historically, one of the most difficult crimes to investigate has been burglary. Even if the perpetrator was caught, the chances of retrieving one's stolen items were very low. The valuables were either sold or pawned right away with no (or a very slow) paper-trail that could be used to track the items. The digital age promises to change this with a nationwide online investigative system that can instantly detect goods that have been reported stolen.
LeadsOnline has been providing a link between pawnshops and other dealers of valuable items and law enforcement since 2010, but until recently, participation was largely voluntary. Jewelers and pawn shops have always been required to submit handwritten reports on items received with a value of $50.00 or more, but these methods moved very slowly and were often not enforced. Increasingly, however, cities and states across the country are mandating that pawn brokers enter items of value into this nationwide data base and they are seeing immediate results.
Here's how it works: pawn shops and other precious metal dealers are required to enter information on all items bought over $50.00 - along with information on the individual who brought them. Police departments likewise enter detailed descriptions of items reported stolen and the digital investigation begins. Serial numbers are the most efficient way to track items and the only way to get an immediate "hit" on the system, but when one is not present, photographs and precise descriptions are entered. This way, investigators must manually search for the valuables on the database, but since most stolen items are sold within close proximity of the crime scene, it is not an overly daunting task.
This innovative system is not just about reuniting people with their material possessions, it is also working to solve larger problems like armed robbery, arson and even homicide. Valuables are often stolen during the course of more serious crimes and tracking these items can mean the difference between a violent criminal being brought to justice or walking free.
Pawnshops or other dealers who do not comply with the mandate are putting themselves at risk of being held accountable and ultimately responsible for receiving stolen goods. However, since LeadsOnline does charge a fee for the service for individuals, pawn shops and even law enforcement officials (a sliding scale based on the size of the department), there will most likely be some type of resistance or changes made to the system. In the meantime, almost one million transactions have made their way into LeadsOnline, so if you are thinking of taking stolen items to your local pawnshop - think again.