Loosened pawn rules may be tightened

Jan. 28, 2014 @ 02:12 PM

The ordinance regulating pawn shops in Monroe was discussed in the public safety committee last week and after a presentation and discussion, the committee voted to return to the originally proposed ordinance, which mirrors the county's ordinance. 

The draft ordinance applies to pawnbrokers, precious metal dealers and secondary metal recyclers. The ordinance requires the businesses to electronically input and upload information that must be made available to the police department by state law. 

In addition, the draft ordinance requires a digital photo or video of "any and all property being delivered by the seller or pledgor." 

Lieutenant T.J. Goforth with the Monroe Police, gave a presentation to the committee on the ordinance last week. She said that taking a photograph of the seller or pledgor with the item is back on the table, though she is not sure if it will pass. 

When they started the ordinance, Goforth said, the intent was to mirror Union County's ordinance. 

"Though the process, (the) City of Monroe got a little lenient, complaints were being heard," Goforth said. 

She said owners thought it was a safety concern, to ask people coming off the street to take a photo. 

"They felt that was a little much," Goforth said. She said they removed the requirement of taking a photo of the person with the item and only required the item, because they felt that was the biggest concern. 

After it was passed, owners started saying they did not want to take photos of each item that comes in, particularly the pawned items, which they argued are often repeat items. 

"Our concern was that we had tried to accommodate and then it kept changing what their concern was or what they wanted to do,"Goforth said. She said they could not keep taking away because at some point, there would be no need for the ordinance. 

David Waugh, the co-owner of United Pawn and Top Dollar Jewelry and Loan in Monroe, came to the city council meeting in early January to ask the council to remove the requirement to take photos of pawned items. He had been vocal about the ordinance on the town and county level. 

Waugh also spoke Tuesday night, after learning that taking photos of the customer was back in play. 

He said it was a "degrading" process for customers and said they do not need to be subjected to photos like criminals. 

He applauded the electronic reporting requirement, but argued that photos of the items do not do anything to identify them. As an example, he held up two iPads and asked if the council members could tell which item was a pawned item. 

"Let's work smarter, not harder," Waugh said. 

Waugh said that they had not been consulted before the ordinance passed in October, something Goforth refutes. 

She said that once the ordinance passed she went to pawn shop owners in the city, not all of them, since many of them are sister stores, she said. She spoke with an employee at United Pawn and gave her the information to pass along to Waugh. 

Many stores said they did not have the capabilities to take photos, but the company contracted for the electronic reporting was able to provide web cameras to the businesses free of charge. 

"We're not doing this to punish anybody, we just want everybody on the same playing field and to help everybody," Goforth said. "I think it's beneficial." 

Goforth said she received a call recently from the Fayetteville Police Department. Because of Monroe being online and requiring photographs, they were able to recover stolen items. Goforth noted that Fayetteville is a good bit away, but the items ended up in their city. 

Council member Debra Duncan, who sits on the public safety committee, said that when the ordinance is redrafted, it will be sent to council for approval.