Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz signed into law Monday a new measure that requires pawn shops, second-hand jewelry and coin dealers to hold all items they purchase for two weeks so that police have a better chance to return stolen property to their rightful owners and catch thieves.
Police say the local heroin epidemic has contributed to drug addicts stealing from their families and fencing heirlooms that, in some cases, are rapidly melted down by unscrupulous second-hand dealers.
“By requiring pawn shop operators to obtain valid identification from everyone seeking to sell items, taking a comprehensive inventory of these items that includes photographic images, and barring transactions with anyone under the age of 18, we will discourage illegal sales and increase the likelihood of crime victims getting their belongings back,” Poloncarz said.
The Erie County Legislature unanimously passed the pawn shop law last month. Lawmakers rescinded an earlier, more stringent version of the law because business owners complained the law was drafted without their input. Second-hand jewelers and coin collectors who would be affected by the law said they were pleased to see revisions that are less burdensome on businesses. But they have raised concerns about the law’s enforcement, sanctions and bottom-line impact on their operations.
Those who violate the law are subject to a fine of $200 for the first offense, $1,000 for the second offense and $3,000 for each subsequent offense.
Alan Rozansky, the chief of narcotics for the Erie County Sheriff’s Office, and other law area enforcement officials spent years lobbying for a tighter regulation of pawn shops. On Monday, Rozansky and police officials from the towns of West Seneca, Orchard Park, Evans and Amherst joined Poloncarz in a morning signing ceremony.
Rozansky called the new law “a victory for the citizens of Erie County.”