Police Say Pawn Shop Ordinance Is Working

Madison police are tackling a growing problem of stolen goods showing up in the pawn shop and secondhand dealer market.

But police said a month-old city ordinance is already making a difference, and a local pawn shop owner said it’s protecting his customers.

Rick’s Olde Gold on Williamson Street attracts all kinds of items, and owner Ricardo Paoli said that type of store can also, unfortunately, attract those with stolen goods.

“There’s some of that element no matter where you operate in the secondary market,” Paoli said. “Everybody gets some stuff that didn’t belong to the person.”

For that reason, Paoli said he supports a new ordinance that requires pawn shop owners to gather information electronically about every item brought in for pawning, including information about the person who brought the item in to pawn

As of Feb. 1, the information is all tracked online — replacing an archaic paper system — and accessible to police, who can cross-check items that have been reported stolen.

“The system was not working,” Paoli said. “There was too much paper. Something needed to be done. The trackability for the police department has to be a lot easier.”

The goal is to protect consumers such as Diana Feuling. Years ago, in California, her parents’ wedding rings were stolen.

“The police then notified me that they had found my jewelry, and then I went and picked it up,” Feuling said.

She said the burglars tried to sell the rings at a nearby pawn shop.

Paoli said it doesn’t happen a lot in his shop, but it’s a good system that protects his customers.

Police said they hope the criminals take notice.

“It’s a tool that we can use to hopefully deter people from taking stolen items to pawn shops and secondhand dealers,” Madison Police Capt. Jim Wheeler said. “In the past, we’ve always struggled to try to recover these things. With the new system, it saves us a lot of time.”

The system itself is subscription-based. Police said the $22,000-a-year price tag will be paid for by Pawn America for the first year.

The Madison Police Department said it will soon be hiring a full-time employee to manage the system. That position will be paid for through the increased pawn dealer license fee.