Plight of pawners: Brokers say new regulations put financial burden on users

Photo by Kristen Ralph

Photo by Kristen Ralph

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Gwinnett County officials upgraded two ordinances to try to stop thieves from pawning stolen goods and jewelry.

Regulations on pawn shops and precious metal dealers got nods this month, as police officials said they needed to enhance their ability to monitor transactions.

But Jackie Kinlaw, president of the Pawn Brokers Association of Georgia, said the new laws do people a disservice, since the cost of the regulation is passed on to those who have to pawn their possessions to make ends meet.

"We very much want to try to cooperate and do what we can (to deter thieves) because it costs us money if something comes in that is stolen," he said, but added that only one-tenth of 1 percent of pawn transactions involve stolen goods.

That is because of regulations like the pawn shop ordinance, he said, which requires shop owners to document transactions, require personal information and take photos and fingerprints of the people who seek to pawn items.

His staffers are also trained to ask questions about merchandise, such as when a computer was purchased, match it to serial numbers and more.

That acts as a deterrent, he said, and ensures most people will return in 30 to 40 days to reclaim their merchandise. He calls pawn transactions "loans," and said many of his clients are people who need some extra money to fill a child's prescription or pay a bill before payday.

"They have needs," he said. "It just doesn't seem fair and equitable (to charge them for the system). It's putting an undue burden on these people."

Assistant Police Chief Dan Bruno said the cost will be passed on to people completing the transactions instead of taxpayers.

With 22,000 pawn transactions a month on average in Gwinnett, Bruno said the new Internet-based system will help police stay on top of the database to search for red-flags about criminal activity.

But Kinlaw, who owns Quick Cash Pawn Shop in Sugar Hill, said, "If the police department is wanting the information, the police department should pay to obtain it."

He said that if his staffers suspect an item is stolen, they will place the item on hold and call the police. But typically, asking for fingerprints and photographs will scare the criminals away.

Kinlaw said business increased two years ago when the economic downturn began, and he is seeing a lot more loans, but much fewer sales of merchandise.

Bruno said the average transaction will cost 50 to 75 cents more, but Kinlaw said even that can be a burden.

"I know stuff gets stolen. It's just not the pawn shop where it gets sold. It's on the street more often," he said. "If it's something that it in the public interest, then the public interest should pay for it."