Ordinance Tabled Regarding Stolen Items Purchased by Pawn Shop

Knox City Council #2
Back Row: Mayor Rick Chambers, Ed Blue, Clerk-Treasurer Jeff Houston, Greg Matt and Attorney David Matsey. Front Row: Linda Berndt, Jeff Berg and Ron Parker

A city ordinance regarding pawn shops in Knox purchasing stolen merchandise was brought before the council this week. The ordinance, which would primarily affect First Choice Pawn, was tabled for further consideration after a discussion between the Council and the operators of First Choice Pawn, Hank Minix and Chris Firebaugh.

City Attorney Dave Matsey modeled the ordinance after Indianapolis and Bloomington, who currently have an ordinance regarding licensing for pawn shops. The ordinance would require pawn shops to hold an item for ten days before selling it to give law enforcement time to receive theft reports and intercept stolen merchandise before the pawn shop is able to sell it. The ordinance also prohibits pawn shops from selling merchandise to intoxicated persons and establishes a fee of $25 for pawn shops to operate with a license, and establishes a procedure to follow in the event of stolen property being purchased by the pawn shop.

“Well, there was an issue that came up regarding some stolen property and how to get that item ultimately returned to the proper owner. In my conversations with the State Department of Financial Institutions, they directed me to an ordinance adopted in the city of Indianapolis that dealt with this situation. So I drafted an ordinance following those lines and that was what was discussed today,” said City Attorney Dave Matsey.

The state already has licensing provisions for pawn shops through the Department of Financial Institutions, which already regulates, monitors, and governs these businesses. Items are kept track of by computer, and all sales require photo ID.

“I don’t believe we even need a pawn shop ordinance, to be honest with you,” said Councilman Jeff Berg. “I went over there today and I was watching the transactions and everything looked well in my presence.”

Berg also reminded the council that First Choice Pawn has assisted law enforcement by turning over stolen merchandise, as well as by giving information about the individual who pawned the item to law enforcement to assist in apprehension. If an item is suspected of being stolen, the individual would file a police report for the theft and establish ownership, such as with a bill of sale, after which police would take possession of the property as evidence. Afterward, the item would be returned to its rightful owner.

One of the issues Minix and Firebaugh have with the proposed ordinance is that it does not address other businesses that buy items from the public. These businesses are just as likely to purchase stolen merchandise, but because they are not considered pawn shops, they would not be affected by the ordinance. They also feel that holding an item for ten days would make it difficult to sell gold and silver for a profit, because the market for these items fluctuates and could drop in that time.

The proposed ordinance was tabled for further consideration, and may come up for discussion at the next city council meeting on May 10 at 7 p.m.