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Pawn-shop-records rule on the agenda Monday

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
February 26, 2011
— The Janesville Police Department will ask the city council Monday to require second-hand stores, jewelry dealers and pawn shops to electronically enter goods into an Internet-based system to help officers retrieve stolen property.

But one consignment shop owner was in tears Friday after she heard about the requirement that would have her report hundreds of items every day.


A public hearing is scheduled at Monday's council meeting.


Pawn shops, electronic stores that accept used gaming equipment, jewelry stores that buy jewelry and pawn shops are required to report items such as jewelry and furs. Officers now pick up the paper tickets at the stores and enter the information into the department's own database.


Often there's not time to punch the tickets into the database, and officers find themselves physically matching the tickets with stolen goods reports, officer Brian Rubeck said.


The department wants to instead use the free Northeast Wisconsin Property Recovery System, which was developed by Green Bay police.


Janesville Police Chief Dave Moore said the system should help police recover more property more efficiently and keep track of any trends in stolen property.


Rubeck said officers wanted to keep consignment shops and second-hand clothing stores out of the ordinance.


People who steal want their money immediately, usually to spend on drugs, Moore said. They don't bring the goods into consignment shops, wait for them to sell and then share part of the profits with the storeowner.


But second-hand stores are identified in state statutes and cannot be excluded at the local level, said Tim Wellnitz, assistant city attorney.


The ordinance defines 21 categories of items that must be reported, including china, computers, crystal, fur coats and clothing. Books, large furniture and appliances are exempt.


Green Bay police Lt. Michael Nick said his department has recovered more than $500,000 in stolen property using the system. Nick cited a Greenfield case in which a murder was solved by matching a diamond earring found on the victim to an earring posted on the database. He hopes the database eventually will be required statewide.


The Janesville ordinance would make life difficult for the owners of Carousel Consignments, a popular downtown consignment store that has thousands of items for sale.


"To be honest with you, I cried," Joni Bozart said when hearing of the proposal. She takes in hundreds of items each day, and her business is not computerized.


Bozart said she hasn't had stolen goods in her store in the 20 years she's been open.


"We're going to do the best we can to comply," she said, adding she might have to hire someone to help her input the information.


"It looks like everybody is in agreement that it's ridiculous but, tough, that' s the law," she said.


Bozart said she plans to contact her state representatives about the law.



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