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Seattle Working to Tighten Restrictions on Sale of Used Goods, Scrap Metal

Mayor Mike McGinn and the Seattle Police Department are working to tighten regulations on businesses that buy and sell used goods as part of an ongoing effort to reduce property crime in Seattle.

Seattle’s overall property crime rate declined in 2011, but burglaries rose six percent. Police are typically only able to recover about a tenth of the $26 million in property taken every year in burglaries, thefts, and car prowls, some of which is resold at secondhand stores, online brokers, and metal recyclers.

Mayor McGinn is preparing to send legislation to the city council that will require pawn shops, used goods dealers, and scrap metal recycling businesses to better track purchases and comply with restrictions on who can sell used goods to those businesses. 

“This is an innovative way for the police department to work with the business community to ensure stolen goods aren’t resold in our city,” says Mayor McGinn.

While pawn shops are currently required to report all purchases to the police department, consignment stores and metal recyclers are not.  The legislation would create the same reporting requirement for used good dealers and scrap recyclers, and require businesses to photograph all purchased items.  Businesses that accept donated used goods for resale are exempt. 

“This adds more accountability to the used goods dealers,” says SPD Captain Dave Emerick, who oversees the department’s pawn shop unit. “This is going to enhance our ability to recover more stolen property, and give it back to its rightful owners.”

In conjunction with the legislation, the police department is expanding the use of an online system, LeadsOnline, to help police track transactions at used good dealers and scrap metal recyclers.

“We had a very archaic system and weren’t able to share information with other law enforcement agencies,” says Seattle Police Department Pawn Shop Detective Everett Edwards, who helped craft the new legislation. “By utilizing technology we’re better able to investigate and solve crimes, which will allow us to be able to return stolen property”

Along with providing all purchase data to the police department, used goods businesses will now be required to comply with the department’s No Buy List, which includes the names of over 1900 criminals previously convicted of property crimes, who are prohibited from selling items to used goods dealers, pawn shops, or metal recyclers.