By TEREASA NIMS
Sunday Times Newspapers
ALLEN PARK — A new ordinance may help police recover stolen items faster.
The ordinance, unanimously passed by the City Council Aug. 26, requires pawn sales to be documented electronically instead of on paper.
“Obviously a lot of stolen goods pass through pawn shops,” Police Chief James Wilkewitz said. “This is a quicker way for information to be reported. A lot of cities are changing their ordinances.”
Prior to the changing ordinance, copies of the pawn slips were sent to police via mail from the two city pawn shops, Oppleman’s Trade and Exchange and 14K Pawn.
The manager at Oppleman’s was not available for comment, while the manger at 14K hung up twice on the Downriver Sunday Times.
Wilkewitz said a third party will operate the system, which will allow police access information to pawned items.
Currently, for example, if someone takes an electric guitar to a pawn shop, he will leave his thumb print and a hand-written slip. Those slips are mailed to police.
Under the new ordinance, the print and information about the items pawned will be scanned into a computer and digitally available for police to check against stolen items.
“The new ordinance makes for easier reporting,” Wilkewitz said noting that it is instantaneous and digital.
Wilkewitz said the ordinance will work only if people have serial numbers for the stolen items from their houses, cars, garages and businesses. He said without the serial numbers, there is a low chance of seeing the stolen items again, even if they are pawned.
Resident Tamarra Belue likes the idea.
“If my home is broken into and they try to pawn my stuff, I know the police have a better chance of getting it back,” Belue said.
State laws applying to pawned items, however, don’t appear fair to some residents.
Victims are required to reimburse pawn shops in order to reclaim stolen items that are pawned.
“To get the item back, they have to pay the pawn price,” Wilkewitz said.
Resident James Ramariz said his apartment was burglarized in 2007 while he was living in Holland. Thieves shattered a ground floor window and hauled away several electronic items and his mother’s wedding ring, all while leaving a trail of blood through the apartment.
“I didn’t really care about most of the stuff, but I really hated that they took the ring,” Ramariz said.
He spent the next few days checking pawn shops and found the ring at one of them.
“Then came the shocker,” Ramariz said. “I had to pay the pawn shop $200 to get my stolen property back.”
Some municipalities have victim assistance agencies that will help victims buy back their stolen property. Allen Park doesn’t offer such assistance.
Wilkewitz said if the thief is caught, the purchase price of the stolen items can be assessed as part of restitution.
(Tereasa Nims can be reached at [email protected].)