April 9, 2013

Pawn shops may have waiting period before jewelry can be sold

By Susan M. Cover scover@mainetoday.com
State House Bureau

AUGUSTA — A modified version of a bill to require pawn shops to hold on to jewelry before it is resold is headed to the House of Representatives with a strong committee recommendation.

Rep. Lori Fowle, D-Vassalboro, sponsored L.D. 71 after hearing from a couple who said they had family jewelry stolen that was found only after it had been melted down. She hoped a new bill would give law enforcement more time to investigate thefts and recover stolen property before it was destroyed or resold.

While the original bill called for waiting periods of 30 and 60 days depending on the terms of the agreement with the seller, an amendment to the bill significantly shortens the waiting period.

An amended version of the bill would require pawnbrokers and others who deal with jewelry and precious metals to hold on to the items for 10 days if they participate in a data-collection program with law enforcement or 15 days if they do not.

Also, the dealers would be required to maintain digital photographic records of the items.

The Legislature's Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee gave unanimous support on Friday to the amended bill, which now will go to the House.

Fowle said after a story about her bill ran in the Kennebec Journal in January, she got numerous calls and emails from victims of this type of crime and from pawn shop owners concerned about the 60-day waiting period. She and Rep. Terry Hayes, D-Buckfield, convened a stakeholder group to come up with ideas for the bill.

The amended bill shortens the waiting period and focuses on jewelry and precious metals.

"Nobody's going to melt down snowshoes or a chain saw," Fowle said.

The bill also requires companies that hold weekend events at rented facilities to get a permit from municipalities and comply with all the same rules as locally run companies.

"I think this is going to be a very effective law to help law enforcement and dealers who get caught up in this type of activity," she said.

Rick LaChapelle, who owns six pawn shops in Maine, including one in Augusta and two in Portland, was part of the stakeholder group that met with Fowle and Hayes. He said pawn shops have gotten a bad name because of actions by second-hand jewelry stores.

"I have no problem with the waiting period," he said, noting that his stores already comply with waiting periods in Portland and Lewiston.

Susan Cover — 621-5643

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