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Forget the laptops, go for the gold

By Fritz Mayer
February 15, 2012

With the price of gold soaring as the great recession lingers, and now beyond $1,700 per ounce, local businesses are joining the used jewelry business and buying up gold. The problem is a lot of that gold is ill-gotten gains that are easy to dispose of and hard to track, especially once the gold has been melted down.

Sullivan County District Attorney Jim Farrell visited the government center on February 10, and advocated for a law that would help him try to curb the burglaries. He said the problem existed not only with gold, but also silver and diamond jewelry.

He said the biggest problem with the situation now is that the stolen items can be quickly disposed of, and his office can’t recover them. He proposed a law that would require that businesses, such as pawnshops, be required to obtain a special license in order to sell second-hand jewelry, which would require that proprietors pass a background check.

Another requirement of the law would be that jewelry, precious metals and “anything that’s transacted at that store” would have to be held by the proprietor for 15 days before it could be sold. Farrell said, “That’s not going to help us with respect to summer residents… but it is going to help us with those burglaries of people who are full-time residents who are being hit hard right now.

“The trend is for the burglar to sit on the house, to watch the person, to learn their behavior and then to attack their home, their domicile, their refuge, when they’re out.”
The new law would require the shop owners to take pictures of the jewelry, record special markings, such as initials, and make copies of a photo identification of the seller. Further, within 48 hours of when the proprietor buys the item, that information must be sent electronically to the DA’s office.

County manager David Fanslau said there would have to be a study to see what the cost implications of such a law would be; for instance, whether a new employee would be required to administer the program.

Farrell said he believes that there are less than a dozen of these shops in the county. Asked if this law would also cover antique shops that sell jewelry, he said, it would cover “anybody that deals second hand with precious metals,” whether that’s a pawn shop or “a grocery store selling jewelry out of the back room.”

He said burglaries in the county are up 20% this year, and are likely to total 500 by the end of the year.