LOCKPORT — Taking its cue from other governments in the region, the Niagara County Legislature has moved toward the implementation of new restrictions for pawn shop operations.
Lawmakers set a public hearing for Dec. 4 on what has become known as the "Pawn Shop Law," a schedule of regulations and fines for the handling of jewelry and precious metals within county lines.
Thieves commonly target jewelry and precious metals because they can easily be resold for a fraction of their value, and are typically then melted down, according to District Attorney Caroline Wojtaszek.
Wojtaszek said she pushed for the new regulations because some pawn shops were not cooperating with police requests for information and holds on potentially stolen items.
“We wanted a countywide, uniform reporting program for tangible personal property acquired by secondhand merchants in order to help facilitate the recovery of stolen property,” Wojtaszek said.
The law requires pawn brokers and other secondhand dealers to hold jewelry and precious metals for 14 days after they purchase them. It bars dealers from accepting such items from individuals convicted of a felony within the past three years and from operating between 11 p.m. and 8 a.m.
The law also allows police to request a hold on an item, which requires the dealer to refrain from selling it for 30 days. Police can extend the holding period for up to 90 days.
Wojtaszek said the law will help police recovery stolen jewelry and solve theft cases, as pawn brokers are required to record proof of identity from those they buy from.
Niagara County Undersheriff Michael Filicetti said the legal language was built with ordinances from Erie and Monroe Counties in mind.
Fililcetti said the Sheriff's office has not seen a statistical spike in stolen goods moving through pawn shops. The motivation behind the ordinance's implementation reduce a legacy problem identified by law enforcement.
"It’s a continual problem we’d like to curtail," he said earlier this week.
Offenders can be fined up to: $200 for a first time violation; $1,000 for a second violation; and $3,000 for a third violation. The penalty will be applied to the individual listed on the pawn shop's license.
Any shop that posts five violation within a one year period will have its license revoked.
Anyone found in violation of the provision without a legal operating certificate will be fined up to $1,000 and charged with operating without a license. Individuals charged with three such violations in a year face an additional $1,000 fine or up to five days in jail.
One longtime pawn broker gave the proposal his backing, though he bemoaned not being included in the discussions on drafting the law.
“I have no problem with it," said Robert Goldsmith, who manages Gallery Pawnbrokers, 6221 Fisk Road, Lockport. "You can't legislate behavior. But if it helps people recover stolen property, that's a good thing.”
The hearing on Dec. 4 will be held at 6:45 p.m. in legislative chambers at the Niagara County Courthouse, 175 Hawley St.