Stow Police will have another tool at hand to fight crime.
The city of Stow has adopted legislation to replace and broaden the licensing requirement for secondhand dealers — those who receive and sell used goods, from jewelry to cellphones. Stow Law Director Amber Zibritosky said the law on the books has been in place for about 40 years and primarily focuses on dealers of jewelry and precious stones. Zibritosky proposed legislation to include state-of-the-art technology like tablets and global positioning systems and to require all secondhand dealers to use a national database to record and track items bought from individual sellers or pawnbrokers.
Stow City Council voted 4-3 to approve the proposal Aug. 10. Casting the dissenting votes were Councilmen Mike Rasor, Matt Riehl and Bob Adaska.
Stow Police Chief Jeff Film says he believes the new ordinance will help business owners and operators keep better track of their inventory and also assist law enforcement in solving criminal cases.
"I think it’s great," said Bryan Cargill, owner and operator of iP3 Repair, 3287 Kent Road, of the legislation. "It keeps the business owner honest — I don’t want to buy stolen stuff — and ... it keeps the riffraff out of Stow."
Cargill says he accidentally bought a stolen iPad once when he worked for another establishment. Cargill fixes cellphones; he doesn’t buy devices to fix and resell to the public, though he may buy devices for personal use or parts.
Secondhand dealers in Stow have been required to keep detailed paper records of their purchases and exchanges, but the law director said monitoring compliance with that requirement "quickly became inefficient and overly burdensome for the city to keep up with." The end result, Zibritosky said, is that the regulations have not been enforced "for at least 10 years."
this spring, however, some Stow Police Department detectives approached the law director about taking a more innovative approach to the situation, following the city of Akron’s example. Their suggestion was to employ a searchable database as a partner in solving crimes.
"LeadsOnline is a national database that allows law enforcement agencies to search for individual secondhand dealers’ transactions over a large geographic space with a few clicks and key strokes of their computer," Zibritosky said.
If a detective is searching for a stolen jewelry collection and has a lead on a possible suspect, Zibritosky said, the detective can search for the suspect on the LeadsOnline database and see every transaction the individual has participated in with local dealers, along with a picture of each piece of jewelry the suspect has sold or exchanged.
In the past, a detective would have to call and/or visit individual dealers in person. "This greatly enhances our detectives’ ability to solve crimes and recover stolen property," the law director reported.
The Stow Police Department has utilized the LeadsOnline system for years. Zibritosky says representatives of the department’s detectives’ bureau approached her this spring about updating the laws on the books regarding secondhand dealers in two ways: "1) to expand it to include high value tech items that often serve as targets for theft (i.e. cellphones, tablets, smart TVs, computers, etc.) and 2) to mandate use of LeadsOnline by all secondhand dealers in the city."
At press time, more than 260 police agencies subscribed to LeadsOnline in Ohio, according to Zibritosky, with more than 3,800 departments participating nationwide.
Stow Police Detective Edie Gaffney said the department has had "very good" success with the LeadsOnline system. Instead of calling stores in a dozen neighboring communities after a criminal steals an item in Stow, Gaffney says a computerized search yields faster and sometimes more fruitful results. A few businesses have contacted the Stow Police Department with concerns about the new law, but Gaffney says those were addressed in a series of meetings.
Cargill said he believes the proposed replacement of the secondhand dealer legislation will "keep businesses clean."
"When I tell people I have to take a picture of the item, with its serial number showing, their ID and Social Security number and a receipt, and then load it into national data base for the police, it gives them pause," Cargill says.
"By modernizing the statute, we hope to begin enforcing the regulations on our local dealers in a way that addresses our primary goal of preventing and solving theft crimes without creating unnecessary compliance burdens or inefficiencies on the city or the secondhand dealers," Zibritosky says.
"I’m very excited about this," Film said. "It’s going to be a real good thing for everybody, not only our citizens which become victimized, but it’s not going to be too burdensome on the businesses and it will allow easier access to records by our detectives."
Twitter: @ EllinWalsh_RPC