Gahanna police are seeking City Council's help in curbing the resale of stolen goods via secondhand dealers.
Lt. Jeffrey Spence told council committee members Feb. 24 a new code would provide the legal framework to permit and more easily facilitate criminal investigations into the trafficking of stolen property through secondhand dealers within the city. The legislation would complement existing language regarding pawnbrokers.
"The first assumption is the retailer is acting responsibly," Spence said. "What we're trying to do with the legislation is bring into compliance those trying to skirt the law. There are some legitimate businesses out there that engage in this with good report, and there are those who do not."
Under existing code, secondhand dealers of property and merchandise are not sufficiently regulated, nor are such dealers obligated to comply with certain provisions contained in code regarding pawnbrokers, Spence said.
By adopting the proposed legislation, he said, police would have the ability to inspect records maintained by such dealers and impose certain record-keeping requirements to identify sellers of merchandise.
Spence said the police department has worked with the city attorney regarding the proposed legislation, and it reflects code from many surrounding communities.
The proposed legislation defines secondhand dealer as a person operating a store, shop or other business outlet for the purpose of purchasing, selling, exchanging or receiving secondhand items of any kind on a continuing basis.
"Secondhand article" means any item that previously was owned, used or worn by another or something that is not new. It would include any secondhand scrap iron, old metal, canvas, rope, branded bottles, junk or lead pipe, household furniture or furnishings, musical instruments or related equipment, electronic gaming consoles, games and related accessories, household appliances, office equipment, coins, jewelry, weapons, bicycles, toys and/or electronic equipment.
Under the proposed legislation, a secondhand dealer would have to keep a written record of purchased items, including a complete description with serial number (where available), monograms, inscriptions or other marks of identification of any item.
The secondhand dealer also would have the name, address or residence and general description of the person from whom the item was purchased or received, a copy of the person's personal identification card, the day and time when such a purchase or exchange was made and how much was paid for the item.
Council member Karen Angelou said a number of sales are made in her neighborhood, and someone used to bring in racks of items like a garage sale.
Spence said yard sales and garage sales would remain exempt, as would nonprofits and people who deal exclusively in furniture or secondhand automobiles.
"This is more designed with brick-and-mortar businesses popping up," he said.
Council member Tom Kneeland said he helped bring the pawn-shop legislation to the city.
"We want to thwart crime," he said. "This seems burdensome to a business."
When accepting merchandise, Spence said, a business owner should identify items and keep records so the property could be tracked.
Council member Jamie Leeseberg said he has seen people bring in boxes at Once Upon a Child and Half Price Books.
"A good business practice would be to keep good records," he said. "How do you keep track of a basket of clothing?"
Spence said police aren't concerned about clothing.
"History has taught us where to look," he said. "Ultimately, we're not trying to put a burden on businesses. It has everything to do with recovering crime victims' property."
The businesses interested in doing the right thing probably wouldn't see Gahanna detectives, he said.
"For those on the fringe, we've already recovered stolen property," Spence said.
If the legislation is approved, anyone in violation of the code could face a first-degree misdemeanor that's punishable with a fine up to $1,000.