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Franklin pawn dealers now required to digitally report

fr pawnshopsSecondhand dealers in Franklin will soon be required to report their pawned items electronically to the police department within 48 hours, or they could face a $500 fine. 

The new requirement, which will go into effect July 1, doesn’t seem to bother many pawnshop owners who are already submitting their pawn tickets through a nationwide searchable database called Leads Online. 

John Murdock, manager of Plaza Pawn & Gun, said his store has been voluntarily using Leads Online software to submit pawn tickets for five years. 

“We’ve got four stores total — the others are in Jackson and Haywood — and they have that requirement, so it just made sense companywide to be trained to use it,” he said. “It also helps us maintain a decent relationship with our local police department, and I think customers tend to appreciate it because they know they won’t get a stolen item.”

Having pawnshops and other secondhand dealers electronically enter information online helps law enforcement quickly search for stolen items that were pawned. Without the database, law enforcement officers have to physically go to each business and search through a handwritten ledger of items.

Other towns and counties would also like to see similar regulations passed locally in order to save department time and resources. The town of Sylva requires pawn dealers to submit information electronically, but Waynesville Police Chief Bill Hollingsed said it’s still voluntary in Waynesville. However, some businesses still don’t use it. 

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“We encourage the use of Leads Online, but there’s no current ordinance to mandate it,” he said. “We talked to our board about in the past, and I’d love for it to be mandatory because it doesn’t cost the business owner anything. It’s a great investigative tool.”

Macon County Sheriff Robbie Holland said using the online database is still voluntary on the county level, but he would like it to be mandatory.

“It’s a valuable tool,” he said. “It not only helps us in our job, but it helps pawnshops make sure their items are not stolen. Not everyone uses it, but people we talk to are starting to get on board. It’s something that needs to be seriously looked at.”

Scott Stamey, owner of Big A Gun & Pawn, is located outside the city limits in Macon County, but he still participates voluntarily in the online database because it’s free, simple and easier than trying to keep up with individual tickets. 

“It keeps us square with the sheriff’s department,” he said. “Pawnshops get a bad name, but we’re just providing a service to the community. It costs us money when things get stolen — it costs everybody money.”

Stamey said he wants to help law enforcement locate stolen items quickly, but on the other hand, he said, most thieves know they can’t take stolen items to a pawnshop without getting caught fairly quickly. He said most stolen items end up at flea markets and junk shops because no paperwork is involved. 

“A majority of my dealings with stolen items are from kids pawning things they stole from family for drugs,” he said. 

Steve and Eve Boatright, owners of Depot Street Pawn in Franklin, said they recently signed up to use the online database after being in business for about three years.

“We’re already computerized anyway so it makes it easier — we don’t have to fax anything to the police,” Eve said. 

She thinks it’s completely fair to make all secondhand dealers report electronically to help prevent stolen items from being brought into her business. 

“There’s nothing worse than someone coming in and saying their stuff has been stolen,” she added. 

The Franklin Board of Aldermen approved an amended business license ordinance in December to include the new requirements for pawnshops and currency converters. In addition to a business license, these dealers must obtain a pawnbrokers license from the town. 

Franklin Town Manager Summer Woodard said the cost for both licenses could be up to $75 depending on the business. She said the new rules are applicable to about 10 secondhand dealers in the town. 

“All pawnshops that I’m aware of are already using it (Leads Online),” she said. “But when the police chief and lieutenant were looking at the ordinance, they thought it would be good to tackle that issue and be proactive about it.” 

Secondhand dealers must obtain and submit the following information through Leads Online: a clear and accurate description of the property (model and serial number); name, address, phone number and date of birth of the seller; date and time of the sale; description of the seller, including height, weight, sex and race and the amount paid for the item. 

If a dealer is unable to submit information because of computer failures, the dealer must immediately notify the police and keep physical records of the information and report it online as soon as the problem is resolved. 

Businesses selling donated items, nonprofits, flea markets and antique dealers are exempt from the ordinance.

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